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Don’t toss your vitamins just yet

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The editorial headline in the December 17th issue of “Annals of Internal Medicine” couldn’t have put it more plainly: “Enough is Enough: Stop Wasting Money on Vitamins and Mineral Supplements.”

That conclusion is based on three new studies in the journal showing that multivitamins don’t prevent cancer or heart disease or boost memory in older men. While the research is the latest salvo in the battle over the value of supplements, it’s not going to end the war.

“Unfortunately many of my medical colleagues aren’t well trained in nutrition science and don’t see how valuable supplements can be” says pain management specialist Reza Ghorbani, MD, ABIPP, FIPP.

There’s a lack of education when it comes to the nutritional science behind supplements. The negative findings are partly based on data combined from different population studies—a technique called meta-analysis.

These studies may have significant individual variations which provide less conclusive results than carefully controlled clinical trials that might show a benefit from supplements. Many study participants might have been too healthy to enjoy any obvious improvement in health status from vitamins

Apart from correcting dietary deficiencies, several natural ingredients widely used in food can also relieve pain linked to inflammation. Anti-inflammatories like rosemary, ginger and holy basil when incorporated into the diet can effectively manage pain. Even though they have been time tested by millions of users, many doctors are still unwilling to integrate them into their practice.

Research shows inflammation is linked to many chronic diseases including cancer, diabetes, and neurologic and pulmonary disorders as well as heart attacks.

The next step in supplement research would be to tease out individuals most likely to benefit from supplements rather than focusing on those who need to overcome a deficiency. In other words, some people are starving, but everybody gets hungry.

While the studies published in the “Annals of Internal Medicine” offer one view of dietary supplements, patients should look at the big picture before reaching any conclusions.

Dietary supplements can boost health and natural remedies, combined with state of the art medicine, can make a significant difference for patients in pain. Statistics don’t always capture what happens in the doctor’s office.

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