The food supplement industry with billion dollar sales of vitamins and antioxidants is the modern day calamity in the public’s understanding of clinical research. Quite understandably there has been a backlash to the type of pseudoscience that has propelled vitamin sales to the top of the health food agenda.
If you are a patient with diabetes and you want to improve your treatment and your future health the bottom line is whether any vitamin supplement will help you. You will probably be bamboozled by claims and counterclaims but in the end you will have to make up your mind.
Do you dip into your pocket and go with the miracle cure confidently presented by your favorite TV nutritionist or do you delve into www.quackometer.com and adopt a rather more critical analysis of scientific data?
The language used in this debate is quite interesting. On the one hand there is a temptation to describe the benefits of vitamins as being ‘sexed up’ by an extraordinarily successful PR machine that makes lots of money. On the other hand there are the academic scientists and doctors who are delving into the unknown and coming out with revealing descriptions of charlatans, quackery and pseudoscience.
The choice at the end of the day is likely to be based on why you want to believe something. The advice presented in this website is based upon the reasoning of scientific principals. This is not to negate the many unanswered questions about vitamins that arise in discussion with our patients but we are talking about big financial rewards here for the pill industry versus the principal of how we accept that evidence is evidence. Thus at the present time there is no compelling evidence to support any claim that vitamin supplements help people with diabetes unless there has been a clear documentation of a specific deficiency.
The reason that the advice is not to indulge in vitamins and antioxidants is based upon the principals of scientific enquiry and their negative results so far. There is no doubt that isolated studies, so called ‘trials’, have indicated some benefits of some vitamins but there are also some that show nothing and some that show harm.
It is about how clinical trials are designed and carried out which is important. It is about peer review in reputable journals and it is about critical analysis by fellow scientists that results in reassessment of the evidence. The scientific process is an open one, it is up for debate and discussion in an open forum. Various health outcomes of people taking regular vitamin supplements has been subjected to numerous analyses and also meta-analysis which are reviews of pooled data, none so far have revealed convincing enough data to support the taking of multivitamins.