Keeping up to date on the latest research on vitamin supplements can be a dizzying experience, with studies published that seem to contradict what the others have found. The Harvard School of Public Health recently reported on the issue, examining why studies on the same vitamins often came up with findings that were worlds apart. At Doctors Supplement Store, we can provide your medical practice with the vitamin and supplement products you and your patients need – allowing you to focus on your primary goal of providing the best health care to your patients.
The Harvard School of Public Health opted to provide some clarity to the often fuzzy world of vitamin and supplement studies.
The school reported that closer inspection of the designs of various studies provides clues as to why their findings can often end up so disparate.
When reading news stories or other information on vitamin trials, it’s good to keep some questions handy – the answers to which can help you better understand conflicting results.
Some items that the Harvard school recommends you keep in mind include:
- What dosage of vitamin did study participants take – and how long did the subjects take it for?
Harvard found the clearest reason for divergent findings was that different studies tested different vitamin doses, and for different amounts of time. For example, studies have indicated vitamin D protects against bone breaks when taken at doses of 700 to 800 IU a day, but a daily dose 400 IU provides fewer benefits. A vitamin supplement trial of short duration may not reveal any benefits at all, all because it can take a longer time period for disease to emerge or for the vitamin’s protective benefits to come to light.
- Who participated in the study – and did they lead a healthy lifestyle?
It’s common knowledge that diet, whether you smoke and how much you exercise can have profound impacts on your health. These same lifestyle decisions also can impact how your body responds to various vitamins. A supplement often only helps those people who have a diet that is lacking specific nutrients. For example, a random trial that provides vitamins to subjects who eat well may not reveal any results. In the same light, smokers may have greater requirements for specific vitamins. A study performed with smokers may yield different results from a study conducted on those who have never smoked or those who quit years before the study began.
- When did subjects in the study take their supplements?
A supplement may only produce benefits during a single stage of diseases and conditions, but not another. That means studies performed at varying stages may produce different results. For example, folate deficiency in mothers can lead to neural tube defects. But – folate supplements protect against problems only when taken during the first few weeks after conception occurs.
- How did researchers come up with how effective supplements are?
Studies are often different in measuring outcomes – or how they measure if supplements provided any benefits. Heart disease can include a wide variety of conditions – stroke, heart attack and vascular disease to name a few. When studies measure the overall impact of vitamin supplements on heart disease, they could overlook supplements’ protective benefits regarding stroke.
So next time a study that interests you is released – keep these questions in mind.