Natural Health News | Jon Barron's Newsletter

Date: 03/14/2005    Written by: Jon Barron

Vitamin E, Vioxx and Codex

Vitamin E One More Time

Well, just when you think we're done with Vitamin E, another study appears attacking the poor vitamin isolate. This study ran 10 years and was designed to evaluate the benefit of low dose aspirin and/or Vitamin E on cardiovascular disease. To read the press reports on the study, you'd think it was the final nail in Vitamin E's coffin.

  • CNN: "Researchers also found that taking vitamin E did no good for women of any age, confirming a study last fall that concluded supplements of this nutrient could even be harmful." [In fact, neither of these statements is supported by the study.]
  • ABC: "Some women in the trial were given daily doses of 600 International Units of the vitamin." [Actually, they were given 600 IU every other day. But hey, what difference could it make cutting the dosage in half?] "The conclusion was that there is no benefit for cardiovascular disease in taking vitamin E supplementation," [Again, as you will see in a moment, this statement is not supported by the study.]
  • WebMD: "The study shows that taking vitamin E supplements for 10 years does not reduce either risk. It's a finding that researcher Paul Ridker, MD, of the Women's Health Study, tells WebMD, 'should be just about the last word on vitamin E.'" [Not really.]

So what does the study say?

  1. And I quote, "Neither treatment with vitamin E nor treatment with beta carotene [They also included beta carotene in a short segment of the study] significantly modified the effect of aspirin on the primary or secondary end points." [Now that's a whole different kettle of fish than saying it doesn't work at all -- and not surprising. Since Vitamin E's primary benefits on the cardiovascular system are that it thins the blood and reduces inflammation, it's hardly a surprise that when given with aspirin (which essentially does the same thing) there wouldn't be a noticeable difference.]
  2. So what about the claims that the new study supports last month's study that found Vitamin E harmful? In fact, the new study found no increase in mortality rates from using vitamin E. So instead of reinforcing last month's study, it actually negates it.
  3. And finally, most interesting of all, as reported by John Fauber in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "Women in the study who took 600 international units of vitamin E every other day saw no statistically significant reduction in heart attacks or strokes. But when researchers looked at all heart-related deaths, which included sudden cardiac death, they found a 24 percent reduction." [Isn't it curious that fact did not seem to make it into any other press release on the study. Actually, it was dismissed by the authors as an anomaly (which makes you wonder why they didn't just dismiss the entire study as an anomaly.]

And as a side note, keep in mind that they used d-alpha tocopherol in their study, not a complete Vitamin E complex. As a number of us in alternative health have been telling you for years, Vitamin E is a complex containing at least 4 tocopherols and 4 tocotrienols -- with many of the heart benefits offered by the tocotrienols. It is not a d-alpha tocopherol isolate.

Bottom line: despite claims to the contrary, the study really adds nothing new to the Vitamin E story. Vitamin E supplementation is still safe, and use of a natural complete-complex E (not just d-alpha) is likely to offer significant health benefits. And as far as the aspirin portion of the study, there are better ways to get the benefits of aspirin, without causing bleeding every time you take a tablet.

Oh, did I mention that many of the study's participants have worked as consultants to aspirin makers? What a surprise.

Vioxx Back in the News

(A brief refresher for those of you who have forgotten. Last fall, news trickled out that Vioxx raised the risks of heart attacks and strokes. As a result, Merck pulled their prized drug from the market.)

Well, in case you haven't heard, a 32-member FDA committee decided on Feb. 18th that the benefits of Merck's Vioxx (and Pfizer's Celebrex and Bextra) outweigh the risk of cardiac damage for patients taking them.

Isn't that exciting?

But what's even more exciting is that 10 of the members of that panel had financial ties to the companies that manufacture those drugs, or others like them. As reported in news services such as the New York Times and Bloomberg News, inclusion of the 10 with financial ties to the makers of pain drugs ``would appear to be a direct violation of the Federal Advisory Committee Act, which prohibits scientists with direct conflicts of interest from serving on panels offering advise to federal regulatory agencies.''

Now that's exciting, isn't it?

For whatever it's worth, Merck is undecided about whether or not they even want to re-release Vioxx. An FDA pat on the back is probably not enough to help them out of the deep financial hole the original disclosures dug for them.

Codex Alimentarius

Over the past few weeks, Codex Alimentarius has been rediscovered and panicked emails are bubbling through the internet -- with a number of them making their way to the Foundation email inbox. So let's deal with the issue here so we don't have to deal with it hundreds of times individually.

What Is Codex?

The official statement reads as follows.

The Codex Alimentarius Commission was created in 1963 by FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) and WHO (World Health Organization) to develop food standards, guidelines and related texts such as codes of practice under the Joint FAO/WHO Food Standards Programme. The main purposes of this Programme are protecting health of the consumers and ensuring fair trade practices in the food trade, and promoting coordination of all food standards work undertaken by international governmental and non-governmental organizations.

Now that sounds downright civilized. Why would anyone object to it?

Click here for a very nice reasoned explanation of the problem on the American Holistic Health Association website.

For those of you who don't want to read the entire article above, then in short:

  • Codex is indeed a bad thing, but the emails circulating the net are a bit alarmist (at least in the United States).
  • Codex is designed to serve as an international guideline for vitamin and mineral supplement products.
  • The section of Codex causing the most furor in the alternative health community is the criteria by which the maximum amounts of vitamins and minerals that will be allowed in a supplement product are determined. Codex states that "... upper safe levels of vitamins and mineral established by scientific risk assessment based on generally accepted scientific data...."
  • Oh yes, big surprise. Codex is heavily backed by the international pharmaceutical companies, particularly the German companies Hoechst, Bayer and BASF.

What Does It Mean?

The key is that officially the Codex Guidelines are optional suggestions. On the other hand, if disputes arise between countries, the World Trade Organization can use the optional guidelines to enforce trade disputes. The great unknown is how that all plays out. I believe that if push comes to shove, and they tried to impose unacceptable guidelines, the furor would be monumental (at least in the US that is).

So far Codex has advanced as much as it has because it has been put together in back rooms and largely out of the spotlight. Yes, a number of people know about and have issued warnings concerning it, but it hasn't really registered yet on the mass consciousness.

I believe that if Codex is used to eliminate right of access to dietary supplements, any restrictions achieved will ultimately be seen as Pyrrhic victories. The restrictions will serve to awaken a sleeping giant (the silent international consumer base of dietary supplement users) and fill them with a terrible resolve.

And Finally Carbohydrates

Studies now show it's the kind of carbohydrates you eat, not the number that add inches to your waistline. It's always nice to be vindicated. (A quick review for those of you who missed my series at the height of the low carb madness last year.)

As I said at that time, eliminating all carbs and turning to a predominantly high protein diet was damaging to your health. Eliminating high glycemic foods and sugars was good. Throwing the baby out with the bath water was bad.

Good carbs include most non-starchy vegetables and many whole fruits, also a select group of ultra-long-chain carbohydrate whole grains such as Aktivated Barley.

(For more on what the results of the study mean, check out what Dr. Mercola has to say. And while you're there, I highly recommend signing up for his newsletter.)

That's it for now. We'll see if we can start the series on Healing Energy in the next issue.

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