(Don’t) take your vitamins

Thu 13 Jun 2013 - Filed under: Not a Journal., , , | 1 Comment| Posted by: Gavin

Read this, “Vitamins: stop taking the pills,” the other day in The Guardian and haven’t been able to get it off my mind. There are years of training, ads, articles, infographics, friends and family voices all saying “Take your vitamins!” and then there is the science:

“In October 2011, researchers from the University of Minnesota found that women who took supplemental multivitamins died at rates higher than those who didn’t. Two days later, researchers from the Cleveland Clinic found that men who took vitamin E had an increased risk of prostate cancer.”

Just two studies.

“At least 15 studies have shown that vitamin C doesn’t treat the common cold.”

But how dangerous can it be to just pop a pill? All my life I’ve heard that this is solid, preventative medicine, the one thing I can easily do (er, besides being aware of what I’m eating and doing some exercise) that will keep me healthy and enable me to enjoy a long life?

“In 1996, investigators from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre in Seattle studied 18,000 people who, because they had been exposed to asbestos, were at increased risk of lung cancer. Again, subjects received vitamin A, beta-carotene, both or neither. Investigators ended the study abruptly when they realised that those who took vitamins and supplements were dying from cancer and heart disease at rates 28% and 17% higher, respectively, than those who didn’t.”

“In 2007, researchers from the National Cancer Institute examined 11,000 men who did or did not take multivitamins. Those who took multivitamins were twice as likely to die from advanced prostate cancer.”

Read the article: “Vitamins: stop taking the pills.” Might be time to chuck the supplements.

• This is an edited extract from Killing Us Softly: The Sense And Nonsense Of Alternative Medicine, by Dr Paul Offit, published on 20 June by Fourth Estate at £13.99. To order a copy for £11.19, including free UK mainland p&p, go to guardian.co.uk/bookshop.

In the USA it is being published by Harper under the title Do You Believe in Magic?: The Sense and Nonsense of Alternative Medicine



Whose the big bad wolf?

Thu 16 Apr 2009 - Filed under: Not a Journal., , | Leave a Comment| Posted by: Gavin

Something for the to-read pile from Shelf Awareness:

Shelf Starter: An American Trilogy

An American Trilogy: Death, Slavery and Dominion on the Banks of the Cape Fear River by Steven M. Wise (Da Capo Press, $26, 9780306814754/0306814757, March 23, 2009)

Opening lines of books we want to read, excerpted from the prologue:

In the fall of 2008, I learned that an undercover agent working for People for the Unethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) had been investigating reports of cruelty at a large hog-breeding farm. I asked PETA lawyer Dan Paden to send me some video showing what their agent had seen.

I thought that nothing we humans do to pigs could upend me. Then Paden sent me a four-minute highlights clip of what the latest farm investigator had seen. Soon after I flicked it on, I began crying so uncontrollably that it took me an hour and a half to finish it.

Read on



They may not have any feelings

Tue 26 Feb 2008 - Filed under: Not a Journal., | Leave a Comment| Posted by: Gavin

as Mr. Cobain was wont to moan, but it looks like that piece of sushi (or, maybe that fried thing getting in the way of the mushy peas and chips) could count:

Their numerical ability is on a par with that of monkeys, dolphins and children aged between six months and 12 months. “We have provided the first evidence that fish exhibit rudimentary mathematical abilities,” said experimental psychologist Christian Agrillo, of the University of Padova in Italy.

From the whole story on the BBC’s Love Earth(!) site:

… as Agrillo points out: ‘The most interesting thing is that fish performance is very similar to what is observed in adult humans who possess a very limited vocabulary for numbers.’ For example, speakers of the Amazonian language Mundurukú lack words for numbers beyond five. ‘Their limits in quantity tasks closely resemble what we found in pre-verbal organisms such as fish!’ says Agrillo.