Vitamins are healthy: it's all a myth?
And yet the story of vitamins as free radical scavengers could be told so beautifully and plausibly and, above all, so effectively in advertising: Free radicals are aggressive oxygen molecules that are constantly produced in the body during metabolic processes. In fact, the free radicals cause stress to the body, can attack cell walls or even the genetic material. This is why they have been discussed for decades as a trigger of cancer or even as a reason for aging. Mainly from companies that make money by selling radical scavengers. Because in the test tube it works splendidly: the radical scavengers, vitamins C, E and provitamin A, combine with the rampaging oxygen molecules and defuse them in this way. But apparently the whole person still does not benefit from them. Yes they even increase the risk of dying. This is the astonishing result of the largest study ever carried out on the subject of radical scavengers.
49 studies with almost 200.000 subjects
The study was conducted at the University of Copenhagen, by a team of experts around Dr. Christian Gluud. The researchers made a so-called metastudy. This is a summary of the best individual studies – conducted according to the strictest rules – that can be found in the medical databases. This type of study is considered by scientists to be the optimum for a medical study. Above all, because with this technique very large numbers of cases come together and the statements are statistically very well secured. The Copenhagen meta-study was based on 49 individual studies that meet the highest scientific standards. Almost 200.000 test subjects. subjects were thus recorded in total.000 test subjects were included in the study.
The result: in the groups in which vitamins were taken (A, C, E and provitamin A), mortality was clearly discernibly higher than in the control groups in which the subjects did not take vitamins.
Vitamin C: harmless and ineffective
Again and again, there had been individual studies that had shown an increase in risks from these vitamins. For example, an increase in the risk of developing prostate cancer or suffering brain hemorrhages. However, it was not until the meta-study from Copenhagen that a reliable result was obtained on the risk from radical-capturing vitamins. Only vitamin C proved to be harmless in the study. However – according to the head of the study, Christian Gluud – it was also not possible to prove significant positive effects from vitamin C. There is no reason to take large amounts of vitamin C to fight a common cold, he said. The study exposed the explanatory model of the dangerous radicals that must be defused with the vitamins as a fairy tale of the vitamin manufacturers.
Vitamins: from shelf warmer to bestseller
Pharmaceutical historian Heiko Stoff from the University of Braunschweig has researched the history of vitamins. At the beginning of the 30s of the 20. At the beginning of the 20th century, Stoff says, the pharmaceutical company Hoffmann La Roche bought the patent for the production of vitamin C. Even then it was known that vitamin C deficiency leads to the serious disease scurvy. In the 18. century, sailors had died from this disease because they had no fresh food available on long voyages. But in the 20. There was no vitamin C deficiency in the twentieth century. The white vitamin powder proved to be a slow seller. Until the Hoffmann La Roche company put forward the thesis that vitamin C, as a free radical scavenger, benefited overall health and strengthened the body's defenses – according to the pharmaceutical historian Stoff. In the 3. Reich then distributed the vitamin to soldiers as “V-drops” – to “increase performance”. In the 1960s, it was Nobel Prize winner Linus Pauling, a self-confessed fan of megadoses of vitamin C, who popularized the white powder. Pauling believed vitamin C helped against cancer. At this time, the advertising industry also discovered the label “with extra vitamins” as a sales-promoting argument.
Top with customers – flop in studies
In Germany alone, the vitamin believers spend about 800 million euros each year on vitamin preparations. Studies have repeatedly shown that these supposedly vital substances do not meet the expectations placed on them. They are advertised as protection against heart attacks and Alzheimer's disease, as useful for smokers and athletes, and as a guarantee for physical and mental performance. None of these statements could be proven in scientific studies. There is no question that vitamins are important for the body. Only – and this was clearly shown by the “National Consumption Study” carried out by the Federal Research Institute – there is no shortage of vitamins in Germany. Quite normal nutrition is sufficient to absorb the recommended vitamin doses. Furthermore, vitamins offer no additional benefit.
The best-sellers A, E and provitamin A can even be harmful if taken as additional vitamin supplements. Only two groups – according to the Federal Research Institute – may have a need for vitamin supplements. Women who want to get pregnant can take folic acid supplements to reduce the risk of “open back” in their babies. And women at risk of osteoporosis benefit from vitamin D. Otherwise, vitamin preparations are superfluous.