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Heart Attacks Cannot Be Prevented or Treated with Vitamin Pills

The first large trial, in which men were randomly assigned to either taking a multivitamin or a placebo and then followed for 11 years, showed that TAKING A MULTIVITAMIN DOES NOT PREVENT STROKES, HEART ATTACKS, or DEATH FROM A HEART ATTACK (Journal of the American Medical Association, November 6, 2012; 308: 1751-1760). This is the most important study on this subject ever because this is the first study that is double blind. Neither the researchers nor the 15,000 physicians studied knew whether they were taking a placebo or a vitamin pill. The researchers randomly selected half of the physicians to take a daily multivitamin, while the other half took a placebo. This study rules out the chance that people who take vitamin pills also do other things that may prevent heart attacks (other studies have found that those most likely to take vitamin pills are wealthier, healthier and more educated than average). Furthermore, this study did not find any evidence that multivitamins are harmful to heart health.

More than 40 percent of American adults take a multivitamin. Many of these people depend on vitamins to protect their health, when instead they should be avoiding heart disease risk factors by:

• exercising,
• avoiding processed and fast foods,
• avoiding red meat,
• avoiding fried foods,
• avoiding sugared drinks, sugared desserts and sugar-added foods when they are not exercising,
• avoiding smoking and living with smokers,
• avoiding taking more than two alcoholic drinks a day,
• avoiding overweight, and
• eating huge amounts of fruits and vegetables

DISHONESTY BY MANY VITAMIN SELLERS: An editorial accompanying the study states: "While prescription drugs are rigorously tested before they can be sold in stores, supplements can hint at health benefits without strong evidence. Supplement packaging will usually carry a disclaimer such as: "These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease". But that may not be enough to remind people that no supplements are designed to replace a healthy lifestyle."

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Lack of Vitamin D Impairs Performance in Competitive Athletes

Researchers in the United Kingdom show that 62 percent of competitive athletes and 73 percent of non-athletes have low levels of vitamin D (J Sports Sci, Oct 22, 2012). Low levels of vitamin D are defined as having a blood test called hydroxy vitamin D of less than 50 nmol/L = 20 ng/ml.

Giving 5000 IU of vitamin D a day for 8 weeks to these athletes with low levels of vitamin D:
• increases blood levels of hydroxy vitamin D from an average of 29 to 103 nmol/L
• helps them run faster and jump higher than those receiving placebo pills.

This study agrees with many others that show that athletes living at northerly latitudes (UK = 53 N) commonly are vitamin D deficient and that raising blood levels of vitamin D to normal improves athletic performance.

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Lack of Vitamin D Linked to Decreased Strength and Coordination in Older Non-Athletes

2,641 men and women, 71 to 80 years of age, who had blood levels of hydroxy vitamin D less than:
• 70 nmol/L were less coordinated and
• 55 nmol/L were weaker
than those with higher blood levels (American Journal of Epidemiology, November, 2012). These people were followed for four years and those who continued to have lower levels of vitamin D continued to suffer lower levels of coordination and strength.

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Prostate Cancer

In North America, prostate cancer occurs in: 30 percent of men over age 70, 60 percent of men over age 80 and 90 percent of men over age 90.

We do not know what causes prostate cancer, but increased risk for prostate cancer is associated with: • Eating red meat cooked at high temperatures (Carcinogenesis, 10/30/2012).
• Lack of sunlight. Men who live in cities north of 40 degrees latitude (north of Philadelphia, PA, Columbus, OH, or Provo, UT) have the highest risk for dying from prostate cancer of any men in North America.
• Smoking cigarettes.

RISK FOR AGGRESSIVE PROSTATE CANCER: More than 95 percent of men with prostate cancer have a slow growing disease that will not harm them. However, about three percent will have an AGGRESSIVE disease that grows rapidly and can kill them. Factors that are associated with increased risk for aggressive prostate cancer include:
• smoking
• not eating lots of fruits and vegetables
• being overweight
• eating red meat
• being over six feet tall
• not exercising
• eating foods rich in calcium (Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, 11/07/2012)
• having a father or brother with prostate cancer
• exposure to toxic substances such as Agent Orange
• saturated fat ((J Nat Can Inst 1995;87(9):652-661)
• where you live: for example, men who live in Scandinavian and North American countries are at increased risk, compared to those living in Asian countries.

FACTORS NOT ASSOCIATED WITH PROSTATE CANCER: We have no evidence that the following conditions increase a man's risk for developing prostate cancer:
• enlarged prostate, called benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH)
• a prostate infection
• alcohol
• having a vasectomy
• frequent ejaculations (some studies actually show decreased incidence of prostate cancer in men who ejaculate frequently).

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This week's medical history:
Mozart's Sore Throat

For a complete list of my medical history biographies go to Histories and Mysteries

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Recipe of the Week:

Split Pea and Barley Stew

You'll find lots of recipes and helpful tips in The Good Food Book
- it's FREE

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November 11th, 2012
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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