The importance of nutritional supplementation in disease prevention.

Enough is Enough

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Enough is Enough

An article appeared in April 2014 bemoaning the fact that the incidence of herpes zoster (shingles) in adults over the age of 65 increased by 39 % between 1992 and 2010. No reason for the rise was identified, but it was noted that the introduction of the chicken pox vaccine in children was not to blame.

Zoster has been on the rise for several decades. When I was a medical student the disease was relatively rare. It appeared almost exclusively in elderly individuals and I was taught that if someone presented with shingles I should assume that they had cancer unless I could prove otherwise. This is because shingles is an opportunistic infection – one that appears when the body's immune system is depressed.

Today cases of shingles are common. The condition is no longer limited to the elderly, being seen in all age groups. I do not believe that this is an indication that the zoster virus has become more virulent. It is a reflection of the decline in strength of the body's immune system in the general population.

Ironically, an article decrying the use of nutritional supplementation was published within days of the article about the rise in herpes zoster rates. It was titled, Enough is Enough: Stop Wasting Money on Vitamin and Mineral Supplements. After reviewing a number of articles published in the medical literature about nutritional supplements they concluded:

"Although available evidence does not rule out small benefits or harms or large benefits or harms in a small subgroup of the population, we believe that the case is closed— supplementing the diet of well-nourished adults with mineral or vitamin supplements has no clear benefit and might even be harmful. These vitamins should not be used for chronic disease prevention. Enough is enough."

This, of course, runs counter to real life experience. Before I began recommending nutritional supplementation over twenty years ago I had a closed medical practice. People with chronic diseases came in for medication refills on a regular basis and those without chronic illnesses typically came in with colds or other infections several times a year. After I began encouraging people to give their bodies nutritional support I never had a closed practice again. People with chronic illnesses began getting better and those prone to frequent acute illnesses stopped having them.

Most medical studies involving nutritional supplements are truly not worth the paper they're printed on. The quality and quantity of supplements being taken is rarely reported. People are simply asked "Do you take vitamins?" and those who answer affirmatively are then compared over the short term with those who do not. It's not surprising that significant differences in outcomes aren't seen. (I've never seen a study in which people were asked, "Do you take any medications?" and those answering "yes" were compared to those answering "no" although it would be equivalent to those used to discredit nutritional supplements.)

In my book Building Health by Design: Adding Life to Your Years and Years to Your Life I reviewed four biochemical causes of premature aging and disease development. They are free radical damage, inflammation, loss of methylation potential, and mitochondrial decline. Legitimate research has repeatedly shown that all can be reversed by appropriate nutritional supplementation. Unfortunately, most physicians never look beyond the highly biased and tightly controlled sphere of "peer-reviewed" medical journals for information. As a result they are willfully ignorant of the many benefits of comprehensive supplementation with products containing optimum amounts of bioavailable nutrients.

I too would like to say enough is enough. It is time for physicians, who know next to nothing about the mechanisms of aging and disease development, to stop telling their patients to avoid nutritional supplements while prescribing potentially life-threatening medications to relieve the symptoms brought on by chronic nutritional deficiencies.