Today I read an article in one of our major newspapers in Victoria, Australia, (its also been on all our news broadcasts tonight) about vitamins. I’ll try to summarise it as follows: A Doctor in Victoria had been commissioned by the Dept of Human Services’ medicines evaluation committee to do a review on the usefulness of vitamin supplements. He studied five major vitamin supplements, namely: beta carotene, vit C, vit E, selenium and coenzyme Q10. He concluded that they did not work and they could be harmful. He stated that there was very little in the way of clinical evidence that they work or that they prevent disease or are useful in treating diseases.
He stated that if you take them in the short term they may not do any harm but long-term use may. He claims that there is evidence coming through that there are some harmful effects. Apparently he looked at 150 of 7000 medical and scientific articles written worldwide since 1991 on the five most commonly promoted antioxidant supplements (being the five I referred to above). He chose studies which were done on humans and were reliable scientifically and most showed that they haven’t provided any real clinical evidence of benefit. Our Director of Public Health said that the report had been prepared in light of concerns about unproven claims of benefits from taking these vitamins.
He stated that claims of clinical effectiveness have frequently used selective information and attempted to convince consumers that a balanced diet is not sufficient for good health. Opposition was met to the above report from the Australian Council for Responsible Nutrition (which represents vitamin manufacturers) who state that they have a library full of evidence of the benefits of vitamins. A representative from a large vitamin manufacturer also stated that studies worldwide showed the value of vitamins. His report stated that an increased mortality due to lung cancer, coronary heart disease and stroke had been linked to beta carotene supplements. Present evidence didn’t hold much promise for mega- dose Vit C therapy. Studies of links between selenium levels and cancer or heart disorders had produced inconsistent findings.