Sunday, March 1, 2009

Jezebel did me wrong.

I love going to Jezebel and I visit the site several times a day, but this post was inaccurate and irresponsible:

A Bitter Pill To Swallow

From multivitamins to weight loss pills, some scientists are warning that dietary supplements are at best a waste of time, and at worst, a risk to women's health.

New research suggests that middle-aged women who take a multivitamin are just creating expensive urine, as there is no sign the pills reduce common cancers, heart disease or death, reports the Wall Street Journal. Results of the largest multivitamin study in postmenopausal women ever conducted were published yesterday in The Archives of Internal Medicine. Researchers analyzed data from 161,808 women between the ages of 50 and 79 who participated in the Women's Health Initiative, a government-funded clinical trial that studied the women's health for eight years on average.

The study found that there were few differences in disease outcomes between vitamin and nonvitamin users, and recommended that women focus on getting nutrients from the foods they eat, not vitamins. An excess of water soluble vitamins (whether from food or supplements) is excreted, but excess fat soluble vitamins like A, D, E, and K, are stored in the liver and can cause negative side effects. "Based on our results, if you fall into the category of the women described here and you do in fact have an adequate diet, there really is no reason to take a multivitamin," said researcher Dr Sylvia Wassertheil-Smoller, according to The Independent.

While multivitamins may not be helpful or harmful in most cases, today, the Food and Drug Administration is issuing warnings in its continuing investigation into weight loss supplements, according to The New York Times. StarCaps have been promoted by professional football players, featured on the Today show, and sold in vitamin stores without a prescription, as a natural papaya-based dietary supplement. But now the FDA has found that the pills also contain an unlisted ingredient: a pharmaceutical drug call bumetanide, which has dangerous side effects.

In addition to StarCaps, the F.D.A. has found that dozens of weight-loss supplements, most of them imported from China, contain hidden and possibly harmful drugs. The warnings have already prompted recalls by some distributors and an F.D.A. spokeswoman says the agency will issue a longer list of brands that are spiked with drugs in the next few weeks. The current list includes 69 tainted weight-loss supplements, which were marketed under names like Sliminate, Superslim, and Slim Up. The undeclared drugs could cause problems like elevated blood pressure or seizures, and may have toxic interactions with other medications.

The F.D.A. investigation is raising questions about the way dietary supplements are regulated. Unlike drugs, which must be approved before they go on sale, the agency can only spot check supplements after they've go on the market. Even when contaminated products are discovered, the F.D.A. can't remove the pills from stores. It must first try to get the manufacturers to issue a recall, and eventually if the companies do nothing it can seize the products or file criminal charges. The F.D.A. admits there may be hundreds of contaminated drugs on store shelves that they just haven't identified yet.


Vitamins Fail to Reduce Health Risks for Women [The Wall Street Journal]
Multivitamin Supplements A Waste Of Time [The Independent]
F.D.A. Finds ‘Natural' Diet Pills Laced With Drugs [The New York Times]

At first this information just felt intuitively wrong to me. I mentioned in an earlier post that I've been using the "natural family planning" method to prevent a baby from growing inside of me (although I'm sure my hostility and negativity has, at times, kept a new little soul from wanting to take hold), but I started noticing after a few months that I really couldn't use this method very effectively-because I wasn't ovulating. My period would have fits and starts and come every 5-6 months. So I went to a traditional western doctor (oh-I'm so anti-established medicine and progressive)-and they tested my hormone levels and came back with the results and were like, "Well you have a raised level of this hormone and it looks like polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and every three months you will have to take these birth control pills and force a cycle."

Here were the reasons I was upset with that result:
1. I didn't want to take synthetic hormones which cause cancer and force my body to have a reaction if I don't need to. They never discussed with me natural hormones and I got off the pill to get off the pill. I didn't want to get off the pill only to get back on it with a super dose every three months.

2. Doing my own research I discovered that not only is PCOS the leading cause of infertility in the United States (fine, I can't get pregnant) the bigger deal is that it causes weight gain, acne, excessive hair growth, and cardiovascular problems. So, great I'm going to be a fat, hairy, zitty lady with a heart condition. FUCK! I was so pissed-so I cried at work.

3. They never discussed with me what else could be causing this rise and shift in my hormone levels or what was going on in my life. It was just such a quick snapshot and one solution.

I went to Dr. Mayfield my secret boyfriend and number one health guy. He's like, Oh PCOS is linked to raised insulin levels too-he measured that-it was fine. But in the meantime found out I was severly vitamin D deficient and had like toxic everything and and "OH YEAH" this raised hormone can also happen when you have stress-and I was working two jobs, going to law school, taking care of a teenage niece who was living with us, and helping my husband who was back in school after 12 years. So , I was a amped on the fucking stress.

I started taking a round of supplements to detox (yeah-shitting and even puking at times-it was FUN! I guess I wasn't supposed to puke-it just seemed so detoxy to me), supplements to help balance my hormones, a natural progesterone cream that I slathered on once a month, and supplements to help up my Vitamin D levels. I also quit one of my jobs, detached with love from my niece, started doing yoga again, and let my husband take the responsibilty for his own education. Overtime, my stress decreased and what do you know? My period is back like clock-work-every month-and now I'm not walking around with like 1/32nd of the amount of vitamin D I needed.

Anyway, the point of my story. There is a time and a place for Western medicine and a time and a place for Dr. Mayfield. I would argue there is always a time and place for Dr. Mayfield, but he can't do open heart sugery so I'm not going to stop going to the doctor. I recognize the value in each, but I feel like if I didn't have the option I would be stuck taking pills to force on my period, thinking I had PCOS and living my life at the same dangerously stressful levels causing even more problems down the road.

Needless to say I sent Dr. Mayfield the articles decrying the use of supplements and this was his response:

The alleged 'experts' quoted in the article are very consevative ones. Even 18 years ago the conservative Journal of the American Medical Assoc (JAMA) published an extensive review of the health conditions that needed additional vitamin/mineral supplementation to support or reverse the health disorder. The summary was that 85% of all Americans needed a basic multiple. Even further are the two dozen nutritional related medical journals that discuss the rampant, extensive nutritional deficits found in average Americans eating a "healthy" diet. One example is that if you do not take a vitamin D3 supplement (2000-5000 IU) every day, you will end up in the 80th percentile who are markedly D3 deficient.
The article you referenced is old, rehashed conservatism based on antiquated concepts. The new paradigm held by the majority of real experts recommend antioxidants, minerals, etc to optimize one's genetic expression so that disease is prevented or modified. I will gladly experience 'expensive urine' as the multiple vitamin / minerals wash through my body cells to improve the gene/environment experience. It is much more than getting the RDA levels of 1948 level thinking.
I attend 30 plus conferences per year led by the top experts in their related field of medicine, and all of them advocate a minimal multiple. Every 5 years the government runs the HANES study where they survey people throughout the country. They take their health symptoms and compare it to what they are eating in the alleged "healthy diet". Bottom line: the average person measures out to be deficient (average) in at least 14 nutrient deficiencies.
I could go on and on to make my point, but you can get the general idea. Hope all is well your way!

That is why I love him. It also serves as another reminder to continue my skeptical view of anything I read in the Wall Street Journal-which really only happens by accident.

Dr. Mayfield 4 eva.

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