COMPREHENSIVE NUTRIENT REVIEW
Gary Null PhD, Carolyn Dean MD ND,
Robert Dean, Christine Wheeler MA, James Yeargin
When it comes to nutritional supplements, the public is confused and does not know what to believe. A current but longstanding controversy over the effectiveness of nutritional supplements for purposes of preventing and treating disease has involved two distinct factions. On one side are those in mainstream medicine who view nutritional supplements as non-therapeutic, but necessary for the prevention of classically defined illnesses such as beriberi, pellagra, and scurvy. This more traditionalist group believes that supplements should be consumed only in small quantities such as those stated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in their published Recommended Daily Allowances (RDA). This same group tends to dismiss that supplements taken at higher than RDA doses can have any measurable impact upon human health. To date, this traditionalist group has been the predominant force in directing national policy on the use of nutritional supplements. Another smaller, yet growing group believes that taking a variety of nutrients in doses substantially higher than the RDA, does have an impact on human health in ways that are not only preventative, but also therapeutic. This "alternative health" group believes that supplements taken in larger than RDA quantities can both prevent disease and treat it. This latter group has had little or no influence on national policy or standards.
Meanwhile, the public has been increasing its consumption of vitamins and nutritional supplements, believing that this is good for their health. Such increased consumption has occurred despite the efforts of pharmaceutical companies and orthodox medicine to advise the public that taking increased doses of supplements above RDA levels has no effect on either preventing or treating disease. However, as nutritional supplements are derived from nature and cannot be patented, the pharmaceutical industry has viewed them as a competitive threat to their patented drugs. Motivated by significant financial incentives, the pharmaceutical industry has sought to suppress the use of supplements, which cannot be patented, and limit their potencies.
Much of their efforts have been focused on lobbying for legislation to limit the public's right to take supplements at higher dosages, or in sponsoring studies to show that supplements are not effective for therapeutic purposes. Recently, the World Trade Organization (WTO) has also threatened to limit the availability of supplements through "harmonization" procedures that accept only the most rigid standards set by those countries with the most restricted access to supplements. Congress has also recently sought to schedule hearings to determine whether the availability of supplements in certain dosages should be further regulated in the United States.
The debate over supplements, including their efficacy at various dosages and their ability to either prevent or treat disease, has therefore become an important topic in public health today. In this comprehensive review, we sought to assemble the most relevant scientific evidence on the efficacy of nutritional supplementation, and to resolve one of the most enduring and vexing issues in public health policy, whether consumption of supplements at levels higher than the RDA has either a preventative or therapeutic benefit on human health.
We performed a comprehensive review of scientific studies on the efficacy of 50 selected nutrients in preventing, retarding, and treating disease. These studies were culled from a much larger online database of 484,000 studies contained in peer reviewed health, nutritional, and scientific journals. Based on this research, we conclude that there is a significant body of evidence demonstrating that the 50 selected nutrients are effective at preventing, retarding and even improving disease. The studies, as a whole, show that the nutrients are effective at both preventative and higher therapeutic dosage levels. Further, these studies demonstrate that the effective therapeutic dosages are significantly higher than had been generally argued by even alternative health groups.
We believe that this is the first time there has been a scholarly effort to assemble and summarize such a massive number of peer reviewed studies on such a wide assortment of nutritional supplements.
Previously arguments made by both traditionalist and alternative health groups have relied on specific studies, or at most, a group of studies on a single nutrient. Many of these studies were sponsored by parties with a vested interest in the conclusion. Such data, we suggest, was insufficient to make broad pronouncements on the efficacy of supplements as a whole. Here, however, we have utilized a significantly larger number of studies covering a much broader range of nutrients. Accordingly, we can have much greater assurance that we have reached correct conclusions about the efficacy of nutrients as a whole, particularly at therapeutic dosages.
We hope that this collected studies of nutrients, and the summaries presented, will bring new national attention to the existence of nutrients and the important role that they can play in maintaining and optimizing human health. We suggest that the nation's leading medical authorities examine the results demonstrated by this comprehensive review so that they can begin to adopt and implement nutritional protocols at therapeutic dosages for purposes of preventing and treating disease.
Click on each of the following nutrients for a summary of the research on that nutrient.