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Vitamins kill you - 'news' that coincides with a move to restrict them
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Vitamins can kill you, several new research papers suggest this week - and their publication coincides with campaigns to restrict supplement sales in the US

Vitamins can kill you, several new research papers suggest this week - and their publication coincides with campaigns to restrict supplement sales in the US. The findings - one of which claims that vitamins kill older women - are completely at odds with thousands of earlier research papers that had demonstrated the very reverse.
One paper, prepared by researchers from the University of Eastern Finland, concludes that vitamins increase the risk of death by 2.4 per cent in women aged 61 and older. These findings have grabbed the news agenda this week, and yet, strangely, the journalists have ignored the one piece of good news from the study that calcium supplements increase longevity - but, then, the researchers disbelieve the figures and feel this particular result should be re-examined.
It's not clear why they don't disbelieve their other findings, too, especially as the whole study amounts to another example of bad science, according to the research team at the Alliance for Natural Health (ANH).
In a critique of the paper, the ANH points out that the data came from self-reported questionnaires that 38,772 women participating in the Iowa Women's Health Study had completed. The ANH says: "The study is a good example of some of the problems that can result from scientific reductionism, which can then be used, with inadequate scientific basis, to dissuade the general public from using supplements that could be vital to their health and longevity."
In a separate study, researchers concluded that vitamin E and selenium taken together increases the risk of prostate cancer by around 17 per cent over a seven-year period. Neither supplement taken on its own had any negative effect.
The two studies have been published at a time when America's drug regulator, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), is putting forward a new mandate that will restrict the availability of nutritional supplements and herbs in shops.
(Sources: Vitamins and older women: Archives of Internal Medicine, 2011; 171: 1625-33; Vitamins and prostate cancer: Journal of the American Medical Association, 2011; 306: 1549-56; ANH commentary: www.anh-europe.org).


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