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“Rigorous” Vitamin Study Reveals Conflicting Explanation About What It Means To Our Health


Americans are always searching for the silver bullet, whether for weight loss, stopping smoking, or, in this case, curing cancer.

After what is described as “the most rigorous study ever,” a prominent vitamin D researcher at the University of California-San Diego has announced that vitamin D cuts the risk of several kinds of cancer by as much as 60% among older women.

Cedric Garland, the researcher, did not mince words. “No other method to prevent cancer has been identified that has such a powerful impact,” he said confidently.

But then the confusion began.

At issue was whether to up the recommended daily dose of vitamin D. A physician at Boston University Medical Center, who sat on the panel that decided the 1997 guidelines for vitamin D, recommended increasing the daily dosage to 1,000 IUs. Dr. Michael Thun of the American Cancer Society said he supports the current recommendation – 200 to 600 units – and that 2,000 units would be potentially dangerous. Then the very next day, Dr. Thun claimed he had no position on whether recommendations should be changed, saying he misunderstood a reporter’s question. He added that it’s too early to recommend vitamin D to prevent cancer.

Of course, it is not unusual for researchers to get contradictory results in their studies, or for health officials to disagree on what these studies mean. But information about vitamins is especially shaky. The FDA does not actually regulate vitamins, although it requires notification of the introduction of “new” vitamins and dietary supplements. Public comment closed April 30 this year on a proposal to include vitamins on the FDA’s list of regulatory responsibilities.

Right now, any charlatan can claim that a vitamin or supplement cures cancer or whatever else ails us – and there are lots of charlatans out there. Nutritional supplements are a $5 billion industry, understandably threatened by the prospect of FDA intervention.

So with all due respect to professor Garland and the University of California-San Diego, until the FDA weighs in, I won’t be gulping down the D.

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