Ask Ray | Supplement study quoted in The Wall Street Journal is misleading

December 29, 2013 by Ray Kurzweil

Dear readers,

I read this recent article: The Wall Street Journal | “Multivitamins found to have little benefit — no effect seen in preventing cognitive decline, heart disease”

Readers have asked, “What is your response to the recent ‘anti-supplement’ research study?”

(credit: iStock)

The study quoted by The Wall Street Journal is misleading. It only looked at low potency (and low quality) supplement combinations and set a very high bar requiring dramatic reductions in cardiovascular disease and other conditions.

There is no way that a routine commercial, low potency, low quality vitamin combination is going to meet that bar.

In terms of contraindicated substances, there are potentially harmful ingredients in some combinations. Iron is generally harmful for men in terms of promoting oxidation.

Vitamin A is potentially harmful, people should take its precursor Beta Carotene. What goes for “Vitamin E” in most commercial formulations is not vitamin E at all but Alpha Tocopherol, which is only one of the eight factions of vitamin E. Alpha Tocopherol suppresses Gamma Tocopherol, which is the faction found naturally in food and the most important type.

A better recommendation is to take “mixed tocopherols,” which is what I take.

The implicit conclusion of this study, and the media’s superficial interpretation of it, is that vitamins and supplements in general are of no value, whereas what the study showed is that certain low cost low quality commercial formulations do not produce dramatic reductions in heart disease and other major conditions.

It also pointed out the downsides of iron, alpha tocopherol (as Vitamin E) and Vitamin A. The point of the study should be that one needs to formulate supplement combinations with sufficient potency of important ingredients (such as Vitamin D and mixed tocopherols) and avoid ones that have potential harm (such as iron, Vitamin A, excessive Alpha Tocopherol), not that vitamins and supplements in general are of no value.

Many studies have shown significant benefits from the right formulations of vitamins and supplements (see this example: Ask Ray | “Oral nutritional supplementation decreases hospitalization length by 21% says report”).

There were other methodological flaws in this study. Supplements are bashed on a regular basis with this type of misinformation.

Ray Kurzweil

related reading:

profile | Terry Grossman, MD
profile | Ray Kurzweil

related reading:
Life Extension Foundation | “Flawed research used to attach multivitamin supplements”
Albert Einstein College of Medicine | “Multivitamins may protect older women with invasive breast cancer”

related reading:
Ask Ray | “Oral nutritional supplementation decreases hospitalization length by 21% says report”
Ask Ray | “Study shows a 30% lower rate of breast cancer mortality with supplement use”
KurzweilAI | “Vitamin E may delay decline in mild-to-moderate Alzheimer’s Disease, study finds”

related books:
book by Ray Kurzweil and Terry Grossman, MD | Fantastic Voyage: Live Long Enough to Live Forever
book by Ray Kurzweil and Terry Grossman, MD | TRANSCEND: Nine Steps to Living Well Forever