Public Is Being Softened Upon For Dosage Limitations In Vitamin Pills

By Bill Sardi

Within days of the world body known as CODEX announcing it will soon set worldwide upper limits on the dosage of dietary supplements, two news reports have slammed high-dose antioxidant vitamins. The most recent report, which claims high-dose vitamin C (greater than 300 milligrams per day) increases mortality rates among diabetic women, makes the same error as the report issued last week which claimed high-dose vitamin E (greater than 400 IU) raises mortality rates. [American J Clinical Nutrition 80: 1194-200, 2004; Annals Internal Medicine, Volume 142, January 2005]

The common error in both reports is that people who are diabetic or have cardiovascular disease, and therefore are at higher risk of dying due to their disease, are more likely to be taking high-dose vitamin pills. The vitamin C researchers concede "there is a possibility that patients with more severe diabetes tend to consume more supplemental vitamin C." Researchers involved in the vitamin E study admit to no such possibility.

There is an association, but not a confirmed causal relationship, between high-doses of these supplemental vitamins and slightly higher mortality rates. This is like saying most children killed in pedestrian accidents have been found wearing tennis shoes, so the tennis shoes must have caused the accidents. Of course, that's nonsense. Just like the innocent tennis shoes, the vitamin C and E supplements just happen to be used by people who are at greater risk of dying from serious disease.

Risk magnified out of proportion

In both the vitamin C and vitamin E study, researchers chose to magnify the risk by stating the relative increased risk. In the case of high-dose vitamin E, researchers said it raised the mortality rate by 6 percent. The public assumes that is an increase of 6 in 100 who will die prematurely. In the vitamin C study researchers claim over a 200 percent increased risk of dying. But these are not hard numbers. In the vitamin E study the actual rise in mortality was only about 1/10th of 1 percent. The overall risk was still very low. In the vitamin C study, researchers reported relative mortality rates nearly doubled among diabetics who had experienced a stroke and who took high-dose vitamin C. But in real numbers, the risk rose by 1.9 deaths for every 1000 years of living in this group of women. The increased risk is still very, very low, about 1 extra death every 30 years. It's a miniscule statistical increase.

Science of vitamin C is flawed somewhere

A scientific curiosity arises in the vitamin C study because National Institutes of Health (NIH) researchers claim concentrations of vitamin C in blood serum reach their optimal level (70-85 micromole per liter of blood serum) at about 200 milligrams of daily vitamin C intake and any excess beyond that point is excreted in the urine. [Biofactors 15: 71-74, 2001] How could high-dose vitamin C, beyond 300 milligrams per day, raise mortality rates when excesses are excreted away beyond 200 milligrams? While NIH websites continue to maintain consumption of vitamin C beyond 200 milligrams per day is of worthless value, a recent study indicates serum vitamin C concentrations can reach three times greater concentration (~210 micromole per liter) after oral consumption than previously thought possible. [Annals Internal Med 140: 510-17, 2004] Scientists can't have it both ways - saying high-dose vitamin C beyond 200 milligrams per day doesn't raise blood concentrations beyond a certain point and then saying it raises the mortality rates when 300 milligrams is consumed orally.

Researchers failed to study real mega-doses

Had the vitamin C researchers examined diabetics who took much higher doses of vitamin C, in the range of 1000-3000 mg or more per day, they might have found profound health benefits and a significant drop in mortality rates. In a study conducted among 6000 adults in the United Kingdom, between 1995-98, for every 20-micromole increase in vitamin C concentration per liter of blood serum, the risk of diabetes was reduced by a third. In this study, the mean vitamin C concentrations in blood serum never exceeded 80 micromole. [Diabetes Care 23: 726-32, 2000] The aforementioned report showing serum vitamin C concentrations can reach nearly three times greater concentration with oral doses means diabetics taking high-dose vitamin C may experience dramatic improvements in the control of their disease. In fact, that is exactly what doctors at the College of Medicine in Pusan, Korea, reported last year. They measured profound improvements in blood sugar levels among diabetics who took 3000 milligrams of oral vitamin C per day. However, that report failed to gain worldwide attention by the news media. [Taehan Kanho Hakhoe Chi 33: 170-78, 2003]

How these two reports have been so well timed to coincide with the CODEX announcement, and have used the same flawed science, is beyond explanation.

Bill Sardi, Knowledge of Health, Inc. Copyright 2004
Email: [email protected]