Some of Britainâ€™s most popular celebrities have spoken out against this weekâ€™s alarmist and grossly misleading vitamin story, which wrongly questioned the safety of the antioxidant supplements that benefit millions of consumers in this country.
Sir Cliff Richard, Gloria Hunniford, Jenny Seagrove and Carole Caplin have joined health industry experts in rejecting the widely publicised antioxidant review and reassuring consumers that concerns over these supplements are unfounded.
An extensive body of scientific research has proven that taking supplements, including vitamins C, E and beta-carotene, selenium and zinc can play a significant role in maintaining good health. The updated meta-analysis published in the â€˜Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2008â€™ should not cause consumers to question the efficacy or safety of antioxidant supplements.
“Provided they follow the intakes on the label consumers shouldnâ€™t be concerned about the safety of antioxidant supplements available on the UKâ€™s High Streets,” said Dr Michele Sadler on behalf of the Health Food Manufacturersâ€™ Association (HFMA).
â€œThe truth of the matter is that this meta-analysis is simply not applicable for vitamin users in this country. The analysis largely focused on extraordinarily and atypically high doses of antioxidant vitamins â€“ in fact, the mean value of vitamin A used in the research was more than four times the upper level in typical formulations sold in the UK, and some of the studies tested up to 40 times the UKâ€™s safe upper limit. Supplement users would have some trouble trying to replicate this kind of daily intake,â€ explained David Adams of the HFMA.
Joining the growing body of health supplement supporters concerned at the effects such stories will have on the millions of consumers who use supplements to boost their health and wellbeing,
Sir Cliff Richard said: “I’ve always freely admitted to taking food supplements. I’ve done so for years and believe that they’ve been beneficial to me personally. For those of us prone to put on weight at the drop of a chocolate digestive, it’s only logical to compensate for some of the vitamins and nutrients that we deny ourselves at mealtimes. Certainly if a time came when we were denied the freedom of choice to take our daily pills and potions, I would be seriously concerned.”
Gloria Hunniford said: “Doctors and â€˜experts’ are always saying that to get the nutrients we need, all we have to do is eat a proper diet. But show me the people who do on a regular basis. Most of us eat on the run, myself included, and sometimes we have no choice but to snack on whatever food is available at the time. Under professional guidance, I have used vitamin supplements for many years to augment what I eat – and will certainly continue to do so.”
Carole Caplin added: “It must be obvious to everyone who hasnâ€™t got a vested interest in supplements that this review is absolute rubbish, it contains fundamental flaws.
â€œWith nearly 750 studies to choose from, why did the researchers manage to focus on just 67? That’s less than nine per cent of the total number of clinical trials on antioxidants available. The research makes clear the team failed to determine the actual cause of death, so there is no proven link whatsoever between the antioxidants assessed and mortality.
“This isn’t even a new study – it’s simply a re-hash of old work which was widely criticised in 2007 for its inaccuracies. It is only common sense that our bodies need regular supplies of essential nutrients for growth and maintenance.
â€œObtaining all we need from food is not always possible so high quality supplements often have a valuable role to play. When taken responsibly they act as a health insurance policy. I will certainly continue to both use and recommend them when necessary.”
Jenny Seagrove said: “To those of us who use vitamins in the UK, this research seems utterly pointless. I canâ€™t help but wonder why they have chosen to report it again at this time, just when the EU is about to set dose levels for all vitamins and minerals. The antioxidant dose levels in our vitamin tablets are tiny compared to the levels tested in this research, and donâ€™t forget that the high level antioxidant doses they used are not even available in UK supplements.
â€œIâ€™m not going to be bullied by this dismal research paper – I am 100% confident that the vitamins and mineral supplements I use are safe and effective and I will continue to use them when I choose.”
Fundamentally and Systematically Flawed
In an opinion shared by the majority of the health industry, David Adams continued: â€œThis review is fundamentally flawed. Of the 67 clinical studies included in the review, over two thirds of the total were conducted on individuals already diagnosed with disease, resulting in a serious bias in the results. No matter how positive the effects of antioxidant vitamins on good health, they simply cannot be expected to overturn previously diagnosed, chronic illness.
â€œThe authorsâ€™ decision to investigate â€˜all causeâ€™ mortality also created a multitude of problems. The study failed to examine the differences in causes of death, and the results were based on all types of causes, which could range from accidents to other illnesses. With 69 per cent of the trials involving individuals with diagnosed disease, mortality occurring throughout the study period could have been related to the pre-determined illness. Furthermore, the study omitted to identify the intervention of prescribed medication. The authors themselves point out that the doses in some trials were above the upper safe levels of intake and comment that further investigation into the causes of mortality is necessary for accuracy in measurement of the results.â€
David Adams concluded: â€œAntioxidant supplements cannot be expected to undo a lifetime of unhealthy living, but combined with good lifestyle choices, can play an important role in promoting overall health and wellbeing.â€
Director of Consumers for Health Choice, Sue Croft said: â€œTwenty-one million people in the UK use dietary supplements every day. They canâ€™t all be wrong! We have been using vitamins and minerals here for almost fifty years; they are not a fad, from time to time they play an important role in maintaining optimum health â€“ they are part of our culture.
â€œThe re-publishing of the research paper at this time is highly suspicious. Not only that, it will cause concern and anxiety to millions of consumers who regularly use such supplements.
â€œThe EU is about to reveal their proposals for dose levels that could well mean that many thousands of really beneficial and safe products will be removed from the British market and many small retailers will be forced to close. We do need to preserve our existing specialist market; people wanting to take responsibility for their own health should be encouraged to keep themselves well through optimal supplementation.â€
For further information about the HFMA, visit hfma.co.uk