Do Vitamins Cause Cancer?

November 30, 2009

Weighing the benefits of nutritional supplements

I am reprinting a press release from the Orthomolecular Medicine News Service that discusses a newly published study, sure to get press, that implies that a simple folate supplement increases cancer rates in patients who are diagnosed with heart disease.  This press release does an excellent job of helping readers read between the lines when articles are released that are biased against natural health products.  I encourage you to read and listen to all health related discussions and advertisements through a similar, more well-informed lens.

Yours in health,

-Dr. G

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Orthomolecular Medicine News Service, November 29, 2009
 

Does Everything Cause Cancer, Even Vitamins?
Folate, B-12 and Cigarettes: Guess Who the Real Culprit Is

(OMNS, November 29, 2009) A newly released study suggests that folate supplements can increase cancer rates in patients who have heart disease [1]. But the data for the study was not collected to test the effect of supplemental folate on cancer, and appears to be biased by the high fraction of smokers and by the low levels of supplements given. All of the groups in the study had high rates of cancer, whether or not they took a folate supplement. The suggested increase in cancer risk is very small, only 1.6%. Because of these problems, the report appears to be biased by uncontrolled factors in the data collection and analysis.

The study combined the data from two recent trials performed in Norway that tested the effect of folate and vitamin B-12, two closely related B vitamins, on the homocysteine levels in the blood and on overall mortality [2,3]. The rationale for these trials was that high levels of homocysteine are known to be a risk factor associated with atherosclerosis, and are sometimes associated with low folate levels [4,5]. Folate and vitamin B-12 are important for growth because they involved in the synthesis of DNA. Folate is crucial for the prevention of spina bifida and other developmental defects in babies. Folate is also known to prevent the occurrence of cancer, and to reduce atherosclerosis and related heart problems [6,7].

Another reason to be cautious about the conclusion of the study is that most of the cancers detected were slow-progressing and would not be expected to be initiated by a relatively low dose of an essential vitamin, such as folate, over the 3-year period of the study. It would appear much more likely that the vitamin supplements actually reduced new cancer incidence as shown in previous studies [7], but that any cancers that showed up later were already initiated but undetected at the start of the study [8]. The real cause of cancer may be connected to the heart disease in these subjects because of their long history of smoking and ill health.

In these two trials, the subjects were selected for having heart disease and were therefore quite ill. The vitamin amounts were small: 0.8 milligrams/day of folic acid; 0.4 mg/day of vitamin B-12, and 40 mg/day vitamin B-6. These amounts are low by comparison with other studies, where commonly much larger amounts of folate and vitamin B12 are given (40 mg/day folic acid, 2 mg/day of vitamin B12) [9]. Orthomolecular (nutritional) physicians maintain that larger nutrient doses are more effective in preventing illness than are small doses.

Indeed, the data from the two trials showed a cancer increase that was non-significant. That’s right, it could be merely random variation. This is important. One reason this is likely is that the point where a subject stopped being considered as part of the statistical significance was either any cause of death, or a heart-related event, or a stroke [2,3]. Thus subjects who died of unrelated causes were tallied in the statistics, which would tend to obscure any effects of the treatment. Other uncontrolled factors, for example the general ill health of the subjects, or behavioral factors like the amount of smoking, very likely contributed to the variability. In an attempt to give more statistical significance the study combined the data from both trials to double the number of subjects. A claimed increase in cancer due to increased folate levels is not borne out by statistics for the population of the US where folate levels have increased recently , because the cancer rates have significantly dropped [7].

Interestingly, health was actually improved in the subjects that received folate plus vitamin B-12, because for them the rates of acute hospitalization for angina and the incidence of stroke were lower by about 4% than for the placebo group.

In conclusion, any apparent increase in cancer risk is close to the expected random variability in the cancer rate, implying that much or all of any alleged “vitamin problem” is purely due to chance.

Findings due to chance are not scientific findings. Isn’t it interesting that a major journal (Journal of the American Medical Association) would publish this research? Perhaps nonsignificant data are acceptable if you have an anti-vitamin orientation. Researchers previously found that in major medical journals, more pharmaceutical company advertising resulted in the journal having more articles with “negative conclusions about dietary supplement safety.” [10] JAMA carries a large number of pharmaceutical ads.

Bottom line: vitamins do not cause cancer. Smoking does.

References:

[1] Ebbing M, Bonaa KH, Nygard O, Arnesen E, Ueland PM, Nordrehaug JE, Rasmussen K, Njolstad I, Refsum H, Nilsen DW, Tverdal A, Meyer K, Vollset SE (2009) Cancer incidence and mortality after treatment with folic acid and vitamin B12. JAMA 301: 2119-2126.

[2] Bonaa KH, Njolstad I, Ueland PM, Schirmer H, Tverdal A, Steigen T, Wang H, Nordrehaug JE, Arnesen E, Rasmussen K; NORVIT Trial (2006) Homocysteine lowering and cardiovascular events after acute myocardial infarction. N Engl J Med. 354:1578-88.

[3] Ebbing M, Bleie O, Ueland PM, Nordrehaug JE, Nilsen DW, Vollset SE, Refsum H, Pedersen EK, Nygard O.(2008) Mortality and cardiovascular events in patients treated with homocysteine-lowering B vitamins after coronary angiography: a randomized controlled trial. JAMA. 300:795-804.

[4] McCully KS. (2009) Chemical pathology of homocysteine. IV. Excitotoxicity, oxidative stress, endothelial dysfunction, and inflammation. Ann Clin Lab Sci. 39:219-232.

[5] Terwecoren A, Steen E, Benoit D, Boon P, Hemelsoet D. (2009) Ischemic stroke and hyperhomocysteinemia: truth or myth? Acta Neurol Belg. 109:181-188.

[6] Imamura A, Murakami R, Takahashi R, Cheng XW, Numaguchi Y, Murohara T, Okumura K. (2009) Low folate levels may be an atherogenic factor regardless of homocysteine levels in young healthy nonsmokers. Metabolism. 2009 Nov 13. [Epub ahead of print]

[7] Drake BF, Colditz GA (2009) Assessing cancer prevention studies: a matter of time. JAMA 302:2152-2153.

[8] Kim YI. (2008) Folic acid supplementation and cancer risk: point. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 17:2220-2225.

[9] Jamison RL, Hartigan P, Kaufman JS, Goldfarb DS, Warren SR, Guarino PD, Gaziano JM; Veterans Affairs Site Investigators. (2007) Effect of homocysteine lowering on mortality and vascular disease in advanced chronic kidney disease and end-stage renal disease: a randomized controlled trial. JAMA. 298:1163-1170.

[10] Pharmaceutical advertising biases journals against vitamin supplements. Orthomolecular Medicine News Service, February 5, 2009. http://orthomolecular.org/resources/omns/v05n02.shtml

Nutritional Medicine is Orthomolecular Medicine

Orthomolecular medicine uses safe, effective nutritional therapy to fight illness. For more information: http://www.orthomolecular.org

The peer-reviewed Orthomolecular Medicine News Service is a non-profit and non-commercial informational resource.

Editorial Review Board:

Carolyn Dean, M.D., N.D.
Damien Downing, M.D.
Michael Gonzalez, D.Sc., Ph.D.
Steve Hickey, Ph.D.
James A. Jackson, PhD
Bo H. Jonsson, MD, Ph.D
Thomas Levy, M.D., J.D.
Jorge R. Miranda-Massari, Pharm.D.
Erik Paterson, M.D.
Gert E. Shuitemaker, Ph.D.

Andrew W. Saul, Ph.D., Editor and contact person. Email: omns@orthomolecular.org

OMNS free subscription link http://orthomolecular.org/subscribe.html OMNS archive link http://orthomolecular.org/resources/omns/index.shtml


The Potential of Resveratrol-is it Worth Adding to your Health Regimen?

August 20, 2009

grapeResveratrol is a naturally occurring chemical found in the skins and seeds of red grapes, peanuts and in Polygonum, a popular and well respected herbal medicine from the Far East.  Currently, the research on Resveratrol is promising as a protective chemical against the damaging effects of toxins, synthetic estrogen and xenoestrogens, inflammation, and the process of aging.  It has specific actions on the brain, immune system, and heart.

In my practice I will use between 200 and 500 mg per day of Resveratrol as part of a treatment protocol. This typically is added to a protocol after a patient has been tested to determine if he or she has a deficiency of antioxidants or an imbalance of free radicals relative to antioxidants in the body.  All too often patients come into my practice with a huge bag of supplements, with no idea of what is working, what is not working and still battling the same symptoms that led him or her down the path of supplementation.

You know your body better then anyone else… you have been living in it your entire life!  You may have a sense of what is causing your symptoms and you also may have a sense for what medicines are helping or harming you.  To help confirm that sense, and develop a balanced approach to solving your health challenge, I encourage getting lab testing completed through a qualified Naturopathic Medical Doctor who has access and has experience with taking objective measured to get to an underlying biochemical cause for your symptoms.  And at that point, adding a powerful antioxidant such as Resveratrol to your protocol, and then re-testing after 3-6 months, this will let you know for certain if what you are taking is actually helping to balance your body!

In health,

-Dr. Gina


Teenage Stress leads to Adult Health Challenges

April 2, 2009

Teenage Problems, Social Issues and BullyingA new study done by researchers at my alma mater, UCLA , further confirms the connection between stress and inflammation.  In this study researchers found that stress during the teen-aged years leads to silent inflammation as an adult, which then increases the risk of cardiovascular disease.  I will also add that it increases the risk of depression, anxiety and other mood disorders and a condition called Sickness Syndrome that is best treated with Naturopathic Medicine.

You can take a free assessment on-line to see if the depression, anxiety, sleep disorders or weight gain you are experiencing is due to this syndrome by clicking here:

The foundation protocol that I use to support the health of patients who have Sickness Syndrome can be found here:

For more information about the condition click here.

It is amazing to watch as people pull out of depression, anxiety, sleep disorders, weight disorders and severe mental health challenges without the use of prescription medications (in fact I often have to work with their prescribing doctors to taper them off the medications so that their body and mind can get to a balance point, and benefit from the natural medicines).  Naturopathic Medicine works so well!  I am always amazed by the the body’s ability to heal itself when you give it what it needs, and remove the barriers to cure (e.g. stress, drugs, food allergies, hormonal imbalances, structural imbalances, toxicities, digestive imbalances).

-Dr. G


Integrative Medical Center Enters the Mainstream

September 19, 2008

On Sept. 2, the prestigious Johns Hopkins opened The Johns Hopkins Integrative Medicine and Digestive Center. This is another indication that Naturopathic and Integrative Medicine is coming into the mainstream, with credibility and integrity.  It is not a surprise that the center works primarily on digestive health issues-one of numerous areas where Naturopathic Medicine truly shines.  About 70% of immune system function is housed in the digestive tract, and licensed Naturopathic Medical Doctors are the most skilled-and the most extensively trained- on how to discover the underlying cause of digestive disorders and how to work with the body to support its natural healing response.  One foundational approach is to support detoxification. You can learn more about digestive health and its connection to the immune system by clicking here.

In health,

Dr. G


Attention Chronic Dieters…Stay Away From Food in Small Packages!

September 7, 2008

According to new research published in the Journal of Consumer Research, “restrained” and chronic dieters will consume more calories if they are eating small foods in small packages (e.g. small bag of M&M’s or bite-sized 100 calorie Oreo cookie packs) as compared to “unrestrained” eaters who are not constantly dieting.  Unrestrained eaters will consume more calories from large foods in a large package. That being said, your best bet is to stay away from packaged foods all together…choosing fresh, unprocessed foods, like fresh fruits and vegetables, raw nuts and seeds, and fresh protein like fish and organic meat.  Here’s to focusing less on seductive and misleading packaging and focusing more on quality nutrition to stay lean and vital.

-Dr. Gina


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 267 other followers

%d bloggers like this: