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Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Responding to anti-supplement propaganda

Jane Brody, writing in the NYT, would have you believe that vitamins, herbs and homeopathy are akin to taking cyanide a la Jonestown Kool-Aid or Arsenic and Old Lace.

Truth is that there really isn't any documented proof that vitamins have ever killed or maimed. The same cannot be said for the products of Big Pharma, targeted at newly manufactured dis-eases.

Please see my reply to Brody's article, and decide for yourself.

Dear Editor, and Ms. Brody,

While the propaganda attacking supplements spews from the NYT , you fail to do much reporting on the risks and hazards of "approved" FDA drugs. One should consider selective placement of pharmaceuticals advertisements in coincidnetal positions with articles such as Brody's. One would think NYT revenue streams might have something to do with such juxtaposition.

I work daily with people who suffer from the harmful side effects of RX drugs. WHat is objectionable to me is the failure of doctors to properly educate these people about these risks, which they are required to do by law.

The use of supplements and proven and FDA approved homeopathic remedies do not constitute substance abuse, as indicated by Brody. I would suppose that semantics is the key word to sway thinking, negatively and not based on fact.

Since neither you nor Brody are obviously educated in the use of herbs or other supplements or homeopathy, do you consider it responsible or ethical to make spurious claims?

As a health professional of more than 30 years and as a person who has studied the use of herbs and other supplements as well as homeopathy for half a century, I do agree that people should discuss their use of supplements with their doctor.

I also suggest that the doctors take responsibility to become educated in the proper use of these products and not attack a person for choosing to want to avoid the use of pharmaceutical and OTC drugs.

Secondly I suggest that MSM (mainstream medicine) providers take their responsibilities more seriously. Many doctors in the US already do this as you can see from the growing number of physicians who are moving into the field of orthomolecular and anti-aging health care.

There is a drug adverse reporting system. It is grossly underutilized. Do you believe one for supplements, as is the current pressure to do, will be more utilized?

You point at Ephedra, yet it is an herb that has been safely used for thousands of years, that is until one adverse event was uncovered. Far too many FDA 'approved' drugs maim or kill more than one person, yet remain on the market

Vitamin B6 has a history of being used safely in high dose for the relief of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (many articles in the medical literature, if one does a proper and thorough search) and fibrocystic breast issues among other benefits. The Kaiser pharmacist should have advised Mr. Alexander to make sure he was taking it with complete B complex (usually B25 is adequate depending on weight and condition) to avoid the potential of neuropathy. B6 was also a common nutrient provided to TB patients taking Isoniazid.

Vitamins A can prevent blindness, malaria, pneumonia, skin problems and has many positive health applications. B6, B12, and B9 will serve to protect people from heart disease, dementia, birth defects and other health concerns. Vitamin C prevents scurvy, cures cancer, treats many illnesses effectively and safely, including Hepatitis C. Many MDs use IV vitamin C or high dose oral vitamin C to treat patients and have done so for decades. The anti-vitamin E articles in the media over the past several years have been shown to be very incorrect yet we have seen no retraction. In the 1970s and 1980s, Vitamin E was commonly given to people undergoing surgery to prevent post-op clots that might lead to pulmonary embolism. Vitamin K will protect against osteoporosis and actually can be very helpful in protecting against the hazards of Coumadin and other 'blood thinning' drugs (that can lead to the destruction of the clotting mechanism in toto). Niacin is effective against Rheumatoid Arthritis and certainly less problematic than Methotrexate. It also can reduce cholesterol (and is now added to one RX), and is helpful for schizophrenia and Raynaud's. Zinc is especially helpful to keep one's immune system healthy and suport glandular health (prostate, pancreas, etc). B9 along with B6 and especially B 12 are depleted by cholesterol lowering drugs, anti-diabetes drugs such as Metformin and others, including fluoride based SSRIs. Calcium in the form most suggested by doctors (TUMS or calcium carbonate) tends to alter the bicarbonate buffer system in the blood which can induce metabolic acidosis. When used in the proper forms calcium can be quite beneficial as can magnesium ( Mg is nature's ACE inhibitor). Iron overload can lead to heart problems so it is best obtained from food unless severe anemia is present, and in this case doctors should not be so fearful of offering B12 shots to their patients (check on how B12 shots reduce hypertension in women, help prevent dementia and do wonders for leukemias and lymphoma - the serum B12 test is not truly indicative of need BTW.)

OTC products like ibuprofen can lead to kidney and liver failure yet is is FDA approved. Tylenol can do the same and is FDA approved. Reflux inhibitors interfere with one of the major detoxification systems of the body, the P450 Cytochrome pathway and can lead to stomach cancer, yet is FDA approved. These are openly marketed with any real education about the risk. This example does not defend your argument.

The vitamin A issue reported citing a connection with lung cancer is refuted on the basis of the fact that in some ( especially smokers) beta-carotene cannot be converted to vitamin A without using a combined supplement. Know the facts first....

And as for drugs, how many approved ones will kill how many more people while still approved....

Let the pharmaceutical prescriber and the prescribee beware.

"Potential for Harm in Dietary Supplements"

and now we know magnesium is for health, from European news sources -

Study links magnesium deficiency to faster aging Tue Apr 8, 5:17 PM ET

A lack of magnesium accelerates aging in human cells, which may explain the link between any long-term deficiency and a higher risk of aging-related diseases, a study released Monday said.

Magnesium is essential for hundreds of biochemical reactions in the body. It helps maintain normal muscle and nerve function, keeps heart rhythm steady, and keeps bones strong.

Yet research has shown that, at least in the United States, more than half the population is lacking in magnesium due to deficiencies in their diet, potentially increasing their risk of cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes, osteoporosis and some cancers.

To try to understand why magnesium deficiency predisposes people to disease, Bruce Ames and researchers at Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute in California studied the long-term effects of moderate magnesium deficiency on human fibroblasts, cells that provide a structural framework for many tissues in the body.

They cultured the cells for their entire lifespan, a period of three to four months, to mimic the effects of a lack of magnesium in the study which appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

They found that while the cells survived and divided normally under moderate magnesium-depleted conditions, they appeared to become older quicker than cells grown in normal magnesium concentrations.

"Magnesium deficiency affects the way the cells age. Accelerated cellular aging affects the way tissue functions," said David Killilea, an associate staff scientist in the Nutrition and Metabolism Center at Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute.

"We are now thinking that cellular consequences of magnesium deficiency may be driving long-term chronic disease."

Ames and Killilea suggested the markers of accelerated cellular aging in magnesium-deficient cells may indicate that the cells were in triage mode, saving resources for indispensable metabolic processes at the expense of long-term function.

As for diagnosing and treating chronic moderate magnesium deficiency, there is no good laboratory marker for this type of condition. It tends to fly under the radar, the scientists said.

"You could be moderately deficient for a long time and not know it," said Killilea.

Food sources rich in the micronutrient include green vegetables such as spinach, beans, nuts, and unrefined grains.

Copyright © 2008 Agence France Presse.

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