My blood boils when I read the media’s negative reports about supplements. Based on flawed studies, they do nothing but confuse the public and belittle alternative medicine!
Here’s what John Borg, one of our regular readers, wrote to me a few days ago:
“I read in the English newspaper ‘The Times’ an article about Vitamin E and Selenium. According to a study done by the Cleveland Clinic, in the US, vitamin E and selenium supplements could be triggers for prostate cancer. Both of them are really no good for the health of the prostate. In fact Vitamin E more than Selenium increases cases of prostate cancer, so this study says.
It’s almost impossible to believe this. Would you kindly comment on this study in one of your future eAlerts to us members of your Daily Health eAlerts.”
With pleasure, John
John is referring to a prostate cancer study called, SELECT, which included more than 35,000 relatively healthy men at average risk for prostate cancer. The results were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
Let me first say this: Almost everything I’ve read about SELECT just seems plain wrong!
To start with, previous studies have shown that vitamin E and Selenium supplements have a preventive effect on prostate cancer. For instance, in 2004, Stephanie Weinstein of the US National Cancer Institute and a team of researchers looked at vitamin E levels in the blood of 100 men with prostate cancer and 200 men who did not have prostate cancer.
Weinstein found that men with the highest levels of alpha tocopherol vitamin E in their blood were 53 per cent less likely to get prostate cancer. Those with the highest levels of gamma tocopherol vitamin E in their blood had a 39 per cent lower risk of developing prostate cancer.
Get it right
This brings me to the first flaw in the Cleveland study: The researchers used petroleum-derived vitamin E – a synthetic version of vitamin E.
Experts have always maintained that food is the best source of vitamin E. For one because it’s NATURAL! Secondly, by eating foods like almonds, sunflower seeds, spinach, sweet peppers and beans, you will ensure that you get the right type of vitamin E: alpha tocopherol, which is not available in synthetic supplements.
Furthermore, a particular constituent of vitamin E, gamma- tocotrienol – as identified by Dr Patrick Ling at Queensland University of Technology (QUT) and his team of researchers, is known to successfully kill prostate cancer tumours as well as effectively suppressing other types of cancer, including breast, colon, liver, and gastric cancer. These findings were previously published in the International Journal of Cancer.
This only goes to show that when it comes to studying the benefits of any type of vitamin or nutrient, synthetic versions are doomed to show negative results! The real thing works better because that’s what Nature intended!
Other flaws in the Cleveland study are:
The increased risk of prostate cancer emerged only after the men had stopped taking the supplements. Which leads me to believe that other lifestyle factors contributed to this risk. The researchers, of course, did not consider these factors.
The researchers concluded that at the end of the SELECT study, the placebo group had a 6.1 per cent increase, the Vitamin E group had a 7.1 per cent increase and the vitamin E and selenium group had a 6.45 per cent increase in prostate cancer… On a percentage scale, these are hardly significant differences… In fact, on average there’s about a 0.7 per cent difference between the groups in the study… hardly significant enough to send out a public health alert!
The researchers claim that the results of their study are yet another cautionary tale about the potential risks of high-dose nutritional supplements. This is not just inflammatory, but clearly a propaganda campaign against supplements!
Unless these wisecracks start studying the impact of vitamin E as it exists in nature, the results of studies like SELECT must be looked at with great scepticism.
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Vitamin E Supplements Tied to Increased Risk of Prostate Cancer, published online 18.10.11, cancer.gov
Vitamin E In Front Line Of Prostate Cancer Fight, published online 20.10.10, medicalnewstoday.com
Vitamin E protects against at least two cancers prostate and bladder, published online 04.03.2004, medicalnewstoday.com
‘Vitamin E Supplements Raise Risk Of Prostate Cancer’ published online 12.10.11, medicalnewstoday.com
JAMA. 2011;306(14):1549-1556. doi: 10.1001/jama.2011.1437