What’s the issue:
A team from the academic Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre in Seattle warns us: ‘There is really no evidence that taking dietary supplements is beneficial to health, and there is increasing evidence that taking high doses is harmful.’ In addition, Dr. Kristal says: ‘As we do more and more of these studies – and I have been involved in them most of my career – we find high doses of supplements have no effect or increase the risk of the disease you are trying to prevent.’…. There is not really a single example of where taking a supplement lowers chronic disease risk.’*
Another physician who shares a similar opinion is Dr. Paul Offit. In his latest book the clear conclusion is that dietary supplements harm and never help**.
Where we agree:
We agree on the importance of making clinical and policy decision based on “rational, scientific medicine (and medicines) whose efficacy has been confirmed in impartial, reproducible clinical trials.”
Where we disagree:
In this recent trial, Dr Kristal’s team was “unclear to the mechanism Omega 3 fats could cause cancer. It was also not possible to tell for certain whether the elevated blood levels were due to men taking supplements or eating fish rich in omega-3s”. More importantly they do not distinguish sources and forms of omega 3 as we discuss below. They also do not distinguish increases in inactive omega 3 precursors (ALA) and active forms (EPA and DHA).
For example, they cite prominently a fatally flawed Finnish study that showed heavy smokers were not benefited and may have been harmed by ‘high dose beta carotene’.
Scientists like Drs. Kristal and Offit are quite selective in the studies they cite and their analysis appears to be incomplete in many ways.
First, using a synthetic ‘work-alike beta carotene’ is not the same as the team of natural carotenoids that are similar molecules with different helpful places in the body where they act. The more of one isolated form that is given the more imbalanced become the body pools of that family of molecules.
Second, the ‘high dose’ used in this study was relative the amounts to avoid deficiency disease (RDA or DVI) and actually low compared to what experienced practitioners use in such high risk people.
Another study they cite that reports vitamin E does not help the heart at higher doses has also been pointed out as fatally flawed by knowledgeable scientists. For example, mixed natural tocopherols (vitamins E) contain heart-helpful gamma tocopherol. The studies that claim non-benefit specifically and only used the single, synthetic d- alpha form of vitamin E. Of interest, the researchers who wrote the report that was widely reported in the press and only later correctly re-analyzed did not cite or mention the extensive Canadian studies using mixed natural tocopherols at high levels for long periods of time with great benefit in reducing cardiovascular diseases.
“The great Canadian medical doctors Wilfrid E. and Evan V. Shute revolutionized cardiology when they first introduced vitamin E megadose therapy. Over several decades, from the 1940’s into the late 1970’s, the Shutes successfully treated over 30,000 patients with huge doses of natural vitamin E. Today’s growing appreciation of the role tocopherols in preventing, and reversing, cardiovascular disease is due primarily to the Shute brothers.”***
The research cited by those who propose harm includes common commercial omega 3 preparations that do not distinguish among the three forms of Omega 3 fats (ALA, EPA, and DHA). In really healthy people, inactive ALA can convert into active EPA. Unwell people convert ALA poorly if at all. Simply knowing that you have taken a mix of active and inactive forms tells little if anything about the benefit or risk of the active forms.
Further, no distinction is made for molecularly distilled fish oils from crude fish oils. Fish oils not distilled under nitrogen and that do contain oxidized omega 3 fats are known to be harmful and are
excluded from the kinds of ingredients PERQUETM uses. In addition, if fish oils are not molecularly distilled other contaminants such as lead, mercury or arsenic are carried along and found in common commercial sources but never in the quality products we create.
Finally, studies they cite have clear flaws and strong selection bias toward their conclusion while ignoring literature that disagrees and provide weak rather than strong support for the dismissive conclusion they draw.
In sum, when absence of data is confused as data of absence of benefit and used to draw conclusions the issues get confused rather than clarified. Scientists such as Offit and Kristal are so selective in their analysis that they appear to know the answer before they start.
Drs. Kristal and Offit seem comfortable standing on the scientific quicksand of design-flawed meta analyses and other observational studies that do not distinguish among the forms of nutrients taken when the same name can refer to natural, standardized, items assayed for activity and lack of toxins or items that are not properly characterized and often either lack activity and/or contain toxins.
When all forms of vitamins, minerals, essential and conditionally essential nutrients are lumped together you get a mix of the helpful and the unhelpful. Often, the most commonly consumed forms are lesser in quality. Most studies start by using only the most common commercial kinds of nutrients… such impure or inactive ingredients PIH would never include or recommend or use in scientific studies.
In addition, those who dismiss supplements without referencing studies that do not support their view appear to fulfilling their own ‘prophecy’. As my grandmother pointed out, when we look only at the bathwater (of work-a-like nutrients that don’t work and may harm) we may throw out the baby (of safer, effective nutrients that do help)!
Russell Jaffe, Founder/CEO of PIH says, “Having been deeply interested in the omega 3 science and working with several of the primary researchers in omega 3 since my days at the National
Institutes of Health Clinical Center, it is clear that, again, form does matter. PIH is confident that using PERQUE EPA/DHA GuardTM and PERQUE Triple EFA GuardTM that always and only use premier, molecularly distilled high quality fish oils and similarly standardized components are both safer and effective without reasons for concern. Personally, I am continuing my intake of 2-6+ grams daily of omega 3 fats as molecularly distilled PERQUE EPA / DHA Guard with lots of evidence of safer benefit particularly to my cardiovascular system.”
* http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2359466/Taking-omega-3-fish-oil-supplements- increase-risk-aggressive-prostate-cancer-70.html#ixzz2YjPLHrhR
** Paul Offit, Do You Believe in Magic? The Sense and Nonsense of Alternative Medicine.
*** Shute, EV. Proposed Study of Vitamin E Therapy. Can Med Assoc J. 1972; 106(10): 1057- 1058. Shute, E V et al. The Heart and Vitamin E, London, Canada (1963 and updated 1972).