Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Latest Health Controversy - Can a Daily Vitamin Harm Your Health?

Although many people regularly take vitamins because they think they will prevent chronic diseases and prolong life, the long-term health consequences of many compounds are unknown.

A lot of interest in these supplements has arisen from a recent article in the Archives of Internal Medicine that suggests taking vitamins and other dietary supplements may not be as healthy a choice as many of us have thought. 

The article reports on a study that followed over 38,000 elderly American women (average age 62) for 20 years.  When the study started about 66% reported using dietary supplements; by the time the study ended, that figure had risen to 85%. The authors looked at the use of supplements in relation to all-cause mortality (all causes of death). The use of several individual vitamins and minerals was statistically associated with increased risk of all-cause mortality when compared to nonuse; but, when adjustment was made for factors that could lead to false results, only copper and multivitamins showed this association. On the other hand, taking calcium and vitamin D was associated with a decreased risk of all-cause mortality when compared to nonuse; this carried over after adjustment.

Other researchers are quick to caution about reading too much into the study.  It shows an association, not necessarily a cause and effect.  The women may have been taking the supplements for an underlying health condition that itself caused the deaths, not the supplements.  The increases in death were small and may not be clinically meaningful.  And other factors besides the supplements may have led to the results.

Another article in the same issue of the journal found that men who take high doses of vitamin E for several years have a slightly higher risk of prostate cancer.

The widespread use of supplements by Americans arose from trying to prevent disease and promote wellness.  But in a well-nourished population, there is little probability that they are needed to treat vitamin deficiencies, and the articles confirm that they do not ward off death and may cause harm.   A more prudent choice may be to eat a balanced, varied and healthy diet.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Floods and Your Health

Our neighbors, friends, and co-workers are in the process of trying to put their lives together after the devastating floods after Tropical Storm Lee and Hurricane Irene. The Disaster Information Management Research Center (DIMRC) has links to information that will help you deal with the potential hazards you may encounter when cleaning and rehabilitating homes and businesses. The page on floods has links to many other government agencies with information on health and safety in a flooding disaster. There is also a link to the MedlinePlus Flood page, which offers even more information. Our hearts go out to those affected.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

WhatNext -- A New American Cancer Society Web Site

People newly diagnosed with cancer face the challenge of finding answers to questions about their cancer and navigating the treatment journey. The American Cancer Society (ACS) website WhatNext uses unique technology to match users with similar experiences and to link users to relevant ACS information resources.

As the ACS September 28, 2011 news release states "Dealing with cancer is emotionally and physically draining. Connecting with others who have been down that road is extraordinarily meaningful, for those who have questions and for people who have answers."