Thursday, April 17, 2008


As a medical practitioner dealing with cardiac diseases, I am often asked by my patients if they should indulge in multi-vitamin tablets as recommended by their friends, relatives, or other agents selling them. My answer has always been that you can take it. It causes no harm, I think. I am also quite sure that it does do not much good. Taking a balanced diet is just as good, if not better.

The recent publication by a group of researchers from Copenhagen, lends me some support. They studied some 233,000 subjects, some with disease conditions and most who are healthy. It was a meta-analysis (we all know that meta-analysis cannot be conclusive) of 67 studies (having screen through 870 studies) and concluded that those who were taking multi-vits (including vitamin A,C,E and selenium supplements) were not helped, and may be harmed by the seemingly innocent multi-vits. I am sure that this meta-analysis will not put an end to the billion dollar health food industry, but it at least gives me a basis to say that there is no conclusive evidence that health supplements help.

I do not see anyone doing a conclusive RCT on food supplements, so perhaps, I will never know the answer. I used to be a firm believer of the late Prof. Linus Pauling (I respect that man) who wrote that high doses of Vitamin C is good for the body, and may have an anti-oxidant effect, and can prevent cancers and heart disease. Well, I must say that as more evidence evolve, my faith in that theory is growing weaker. Perhaps the subject of oxidative stress and anti-oxidants, is just too complex for a simple one line answer. As for now, I would like to suggest that all of us should take a healthy diet, plant base primarily and with adequate consumption of vitamins and low fat animal proteins. Oh yes, minus the salt please.

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