It’s The Right Kind of Supplements That Matter: A Rebuttal to a recent article by Dr. Bill Elliott in the Marin Independent Journal


   By Peter Holleran, DC
        January, 2014


   A recent John Hopkins meta-study on the valuelessness of vitamin supplements (with unwarranted extrapolation to ‘all’ supplements’) has both sides of the debate with their knickers in a fit. But on closer analysis it is a straw-dog or red-herring argument. The real issue is not just whether multivitamins are useless, but what is the presumed alternative proposed by the researchers and medical doctors, who so often, from the rigors of the professional work environment, accepted ‘standards of practice’, peer pressure, ignorance, and worst case, intellectual laziness, seem to suffer from amnesia over the actual Human Biochemistry and paltry if non-existent nutritional education they get in only one in four colleges. Sadly, the only easy money to be made is in prescribing dangerous and most often worthless drugs, with natural remedies only offered when this treatment fails - for fear of a lawsuit. It seems the hidden conclusion from a study like this is that we just sit around (don’t exercise too much, it’s also bad for you) until developing an inevitable degenerative disease and then opt for a now virtually discredited paradigm of taking symptom-altering or symptom-suppressing pharmaceuticals, which anyone not brain-dead can glean from watching TV every night are no solution at all, necessitating the disclaimer of a five minute list of side-effects - including often the very condition they are supposed to treat! Many physicians appear to be in this camp. They often mean well but also know they cannot make a living unless they have the arsenal of prescription drugs as primary treatment, for cholesterol, high blood pressure, bone density, cancer, and other ills of modern living, so they jump on the band-wagon (one of the classic propaganda techniques, for those who remember their high school study), in one fell swoop dismissing hundreds of studies and clinical evidence showing much benefit from alternative, natural substances, accurately put into practice.

&Nbsp  Yet a 2003 a ten-year survey of government statistics concluded that iatrogenic illness (i.e., medically caused illness) was the leading cause of death in this country, with at least 200,000 deaths due to pharmaceutical drugs alone! Try as hard as one may he will not find anything remotely close to this with use of vitamins and minerals - in a twenty-three year period the AAPCC (American Association of Poison Control Centers) reported only ten people died from vitamins, with NO deaths in 16 out of those 23 years - as well as heavily researched “neutraceuticals” such as curcumin, fish oil, CoQ10, resveratrol, and many others. The cat is out of the bag: four out of ten Americans, including thousands of medical doctors (generally those who do not join the drug-oriented AMA), now use complementary substances in lieu of drugs, and are we to think they are all stupid?

   Chemical drugs, unlike natural foods and food-derived supplements, are non-specific in their action, affecting a protein in the membrane of one set of cells while causing unwanted “side effects” in countless other places. But in truth there are really no “side effects”, but only predictable “effects” based on messing with the intricate and interdependent physiological mechanisms in the human body. So what , therefore, is a thinking person to do?

   Well, actually, first I will state up front that I agree with these researchers, on one point - which they apparently are not aware of, or are trying to hide in order to garner the market on treatment and cure with its subsequent health care dollars. According to some sources there is a sort of vitamin lie propagated by both industry and the healing profession, and that is in assuming one can isolate a fraction of a vitamin family or the entire molecule as found in nature and expect the same benefit that one can have by consuming the whole thing. For instance, they sometimes say that ‘Vitamin C’ is frequently equated with ‘ascorbic acid’. Just look at the label on even organic multivitamins; one will see ‘ascorbic acid’ almost universally listed as Vitamin C. Whereas, in nature, the argument goes, Vitamin C is a whole complex of substances (ascorbic acid, rutin, bioflavonoids, five copper ions, tyrosinase, ‘K’ and ‘J’ factors, and ascorbagens - which act collectively and synergistically), all of which are required for the many functions of this nutrient - too numerous to mention here but suffice it includes many essential bodily processes (including the immune system, thyroid hormone production, connective tissue strength (i.e., skin, discs, ligaments, bllod vessels), bone matrix, and hemoglobin formation, as well as cholesterol metabolism). Taking just a fraction, as in regular high doses of ascorbic acid, may result in an actual deficiency of 'true' Vitamin C in the body, by competing for its receptor site in the cells, with resultant deliterious effects.

   Having said this, the 'godfathers' of Vitamin C research such as Drs. Linus Pauling (two-time winner of the Nobel Prize), Irwin Stone, and Fred Klenner, did all their research and clinical work with pure ascorbic acid alone, and would say the above analysis may be true for many vitamins, but not for VitaminC. In fact, they would say that so-called Vitamin C is not really a vitamin (generally defined as a vital substance the body needs in only minute quantities), but rather a super-essential nutrient that primates need in much larger amounts than those minimally recommended. Only a few milligrams of Vitamin C are necessary to prevent acute scurvy (which was the criterium used to call it a 'vitamin', with an RDA of 90mg), but many grams many be needed for optimum health and disease prevention and treatment. Dr. Klenner presented his clinical findings in 1948 of having cured 60 out of 60 polio patients within 72 hours with 200 grams per day of intravenous Vitamin! The medical society received his news in mute silence, and, because all hopes were set on the development of a vaccine, basically ignored and forgot about him. Several other doctors of his time duplicated his results in many serious conditions, ranging from viral pneumonia to snakebite. According to these doctors, upwards of 2-20 grams a day of Vitamin C may be required for any given individual, for baseline health maintenance. In times of high stress our needs may multiply up to 50 times normal. Our brain, white blood cells, and adrenals in particular need a lot of it. There has been found almost no upper limit regarding safety, even though the FDA continues to refuse to list it as 'safe'. The experts suggest taking it for serious infections and diseases up to bowel tolerance (which may be extremely high) then back off some; in repeated doses - every few hours, until resolution of the condition. Once a day in small doses won't prevent or cure anything. Which is why such studies always fail to show any benefit from Vit C.

   The literature of Vitamin C is indisputable, in my opinion. The medical society has confused the public through doing studies with a one-a-day-minimal-multivitamin-level-of-dosage of certain nutrients and then claiming they have no value. And the FDA backs them up, having a mission of supporting a pharmaceutical-only model of treatment and total control of our health choices. Who runs the FDA? Scientists and bureaucrats with major conflicts of interest with the pharmaceutical industry.

   The clinical findings on large doses of Vitamin C are extensive (was of 2012, PubMed listed over 51,000 studies! - most of which the medical establishment doesn't recognize, or even know about), with nearly only positive results. One could say, as some doctors do, that the use of 'ascorbic acid' alone is essentially a drug in its actions, but, while the other substances found in plants are useful (such as bioflavanoids, etc), there is no recognized difference between pure laboratory the ascorbic acid molecule and the vitamin C found in plants. It is theorized by Linus Pauling and the others that there was an evolutionary development in which we as a species, unlike most other animals, lost the ability to make our own Vitamin C. We still have the gene for its production, but the gene is no longer expressed (at least in most people - some evidence suggests that there may actually be a little production in a few individuals).

   As for other vitamin 'fractions', it may or may not be true that they 'confuse' the body. But they certainly do not provide the whole benefit of what some call the 'whole' vitamin. Whether one wants to call it, i.e., Vitamin E, the 'whole thing', or not, the important thing is that there is not just ‘alpha tocopherol’, but a complex of eight tocopherols, 4 tocotrienols, (and some include four essential fatty acids, selenium, lipositols and xanthenes), all with essential functions. The research that is quoted where there is an adverse health consequence (such as an increase risk of prostate cancer) from taking ‘Vitamin E‘) is based on taking an artificial fraction of the total Vitamin E food-based complex. Dr. Robert Thompson, MD, in The Calcium Lie, writes:

   “Natural” forms of the vitamin E complex when separated chemically from their parent molecule lose over 99 percent of their true potency and beneficial effect and may produce the same symptoms as the vitamin deficiency. This is called the “Reverse Effect” and is true not only for E, but also for A, C, D, K, and to a lesser extent the B vitamins..”

   These are all families of nutrients as nature designed them; isolated supplements, on the other hand, act as drugs in the body, and can cause deficiencies. Fractionating and then ‘re-packing’ all of them into one pill is often useless and possibly harmful. Think: anything listed in parentheses on a bottle is artificial and only a piece of the real thing: Vitamin C (as ascorbic acid - but in this case the importance for this is huge); Vitamin A (as beta carotene, retinol, or palmitate); Vitamin E (as alpha tocopherol), etc.. So, we need these nutrients, and yet often our food-sources are woefully lacking. Why?

   A chief problem is in minerally deficient soil. Vitamins will not work without minerals. As far back as 1936 the U.S. Senate, based on research from Yale, Columbia, John Hopkins (!), and the Department of Agriculture, warned that our soil was seriously deficient in minerals. A 1992 Earth Summit said that the mineral content of North American soils declined 85%! Importantly, in 1999, a Rutgers’ study found the mineral content of commercial fruits and vegetables was only 16% of normal compared to vine-ripened organic produce. And much of even organic produce, while free of biophosphates, is not vine-ripened. There is thus no way for the average person to get what their bodies are crying out for without supplementation. And here both the medical community and the supplementation industry fall into error. These are in regards to what what Dr. Thompson calls the ‘Vitamin Lie’ and the ‘Mineral Lie’. This is a large subject, but in essence it means that humans cannot readily assimilate individual fractionated vitamins and minerals, that we need the whole thing as nature intended. Further, plants ‘eat’ minerals, and humans eat plants. That and ocean-derived ionizing mineral salts, are essentially where we can get our minerals in usable form.

   Here is one for instance. It is ironic that the same doctors who say supplements are useless still routinely and without questioning prescribe calcium to their patients with ‘low bone density’. Note, however, the tests are for ‘bone density’ - not ‘calcium density’! Bones are made of twelve basic minerals, another sixty trace minerals, as well as a collagen matrix (think Vitamin C) in which these mineral salts are imbedded. How much sense does it make to try to pack them with calcium? We are not mixing concrete here! It is much more complex than that. [The mineral content of bone is also 14% sodium, so how much sense does a blanket recommendation for a low-salt diet make?] Getting lots of calcium, especially from dairy products, has been shown, in a study of 122,000 nurses over THIRTY years ago, to lead to more fractures than those consuming nothing. Other studies with calcium supplements have presented similar results. The same goes for 'Boniva' and other such drugs which tinker with just one mechanism of bone formation ignoring all the rest, leading to a dangerous imbalance often with dire results.

   One wonders if the same professionals or ‘authorities’ who reject all benefit from vitamin and mineral supplements, will dare go out on a limb and take on the PACKAGED CEREAL, ORANGE JUICE, AND DAIRY industries, all of which fortify their products with such isolated substances? The answer is, of course not. They should, in my opinion, for both health reasons and to be logically consistent, but the powerful dairy lobby, ignoring the complexities of human physiology, is where the marketing push for consuming lots of calcium came from in the first place. But consider: where do pastured milk cows get their calcium? Why don’t they have thin bones? Why do cultures worldwide with little or no calcum intake have stronger bones than we have? Why have repeated studies shown little or no benefit from taking calcium 'pills'? And even an increased risk of heart attacks?

   There are easy ways to solve this mineral problem, which has to be the subject of another article.

   In sum, conclusions so readily drawn from studies like this lead one to realize that without the free access to and availability of every form of health care and nutrition, we are left with a system, whether with private or government insurance, in which the standard of care is based on antiquated, mechanistic models, in many cases fifty years behind the latest scientific research, specifically in regards to treatment of chronic disease. This is not generally due to ill will on the part of most physicians, but either unfortunate yet still inexcusable ignorance or intellectual laziness, or due to the pressure on medical education and colleges from the pharmaceutical industry, which also controls the grant money and thus what studies get funded and what gets published. This is actually the perfect business model: fund students who attend medical colleges, fund the colleges to teach students to use their drugs, fund hospitals to ensure use of their drugs, enlist Hollywood to glamorize/promote their drugs, and, last but not least, lobby Washington to establish a 'standard of care' that consists first and foremost of using their drugs. There are currently one thousand lobbyists in Washington, DC, alone - two for every congressman and senator - all getting six-figure salaries to promote the sale of pharmaceuticals and make their prescription standard medical procedure. This IS big business. According to medical researcher Ralph Moss, PhD, the average drug cost for treating colon cancer in 2000 was about $500; now it is up to $250,000 - with little or no increase in life expectancy. Chemotherapy is the life-blood of most hospitals - a $200 billion a year business. The Journal of Oncology reported in 2004, however, that the five-year survival rate for all chemotherapies was only 2%. This information was released five years earlier but was suppressed. Chemo is only useful, as is radiation, on a few select forms of cancer (testicular cancer, childhood leukemia, and some lymphomas - not the major killers like metastatic breast, colon, brain, prostate, lung, and liver cancer. It is no wonder that many doctors privately refuse to use it on themselves, but criminal that they nevertheless suggest it to others out of official protocol, while simultaneously ignoring many clinically proven non-toxic therapies and successful adjunctive therapies (i.e., natural as well as 'conventional') that make conventional treatments less harmful. [For example, it has been known for twenty years that a course of cimetadine, i.e., Tagamet, an ulcer drug, given pre-and-post-surgery can extend life expectancy for colon cancer patients by up to 80%. Yet few clinicians make use of this finding]. Other more natural substances are only used by alternative medical doctors who are vilified by the establishment. Hospital protocol usually states that such avenues of treatment can only be used after conventional treatment has failed, by which point it may be too late, the resources of the patient depleted.

   According to a recent story from the Associated Press, government advisers to the Institute of Medicine are warning that the U.S. is facing a crisis in cancer care. They predict there may be a shortage of oncology specialists to deal with it. Yet, of the thirteen new cancer treatments approved by the FDA last year, only one was shown to extend survival by more than a median of six months. The drugs all cost in excess of $5,900 per month and that doesn't include doctor and hospital bills, surgeries, or caretakers. This is unacceptable when less-toxic, natural treatment options exist.

   People think the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is a watchdog, whereas they now let drug companies provide their own research, which the FDA then basically rubber-stamps. ‘Evidence-based medicine’ sounds good, but in practice is a hypocritical scam. Why? Professionals in white coats with the mystique of authority get carte blanche to write knee-jerk articles dismissing ALL supplements - this time based on a flawed John Hopkins study - leaving us to conclude that only ‘their’ remedies (i.e., drugs) based on the ‘gold-standard’ of double-blind studies are good. That is, as Dr. Russell Blaylock, MD (a neurosurgeon for twenty-five years), says

   "The words 'evidence-based medicine'...is the biggest con job in the history of the world. It is a word used to imply that only conventional medical practice uses evidence-based medicine and anything outside of that does not. Evidence-based medicine makes it impossible for doctors to recommend anything alternative, as though alternative medicine has no evidence."

   This is arrogance. It has been revealed that pharmaceutical companies have been hiding results of negative studies from review and the FDA has been complicit in this. 'Publication bias' often allows only favorable data to be made public, with the negatives buried, and only accessed by whistle blowers exerting pressure by filing Freedom of Information requests. There is a 'double standard' employed in holding alternative medicine rigorously to the criteria of a double-blind study while bending the rules, with the help of the FDA, for the forces with big money, who will only finance what is patentable and lucrative.

   Case in point: the FDA has been fighting the sale of CoQ 10 since the 1980's, even though its use in congestive heart failure has been well documented. It was first marketed and recognized for this in Japan. It strengthens the heart muscle and its ability to produce ATP, the 'energy' molecule, in the mitochondria of the cells.

   Twenty years ago the drug giant Merck took out two patents recognizing the need for adding CoQ10 to statin (cholesterol-lowering) drugs, because of the knowledge that statins interrupt the metabolic pathways for BOTH the production of cholesterol and CoQ10. Why is this so significant? CoQ10 is crucial for all cellular metabolism,: as stated, it is needed by the mitochondria, the energy powerhouse of the cells. A lack of CoQ10 has been reported to lead to, among other things: muscle breakdown (rhabdomialysis), weakness, neuropathy, jaw necrosis (bone death), and even heart disease (heart disease?! yes - the heart is a muscle). Merck never followed up on its discoveries, presumably because confessing the link between statins and CoQ10 would negatively affect sales, for who would take statins if it were admitted that they destroyed CoQ10 production, with all its attendant side effects and little potential benefit? Yet fortunately today we are beginning to see ads for CoQ10 on TV - without, however, an outright disclosure of the connection.

   While a direct link has not yet been proven, cancer patients have notoriously low cholesterol levels, which is likely why they are routinely omitted from statin studies because researchers know if they reduce their cholesterol levels any further they may die, negatively affecting the study. Some studies have shown that for every 1% decrease in cholesterol there is a 1% increase in overall mortality.

   Statin drugs (and others) are frequently marketed - as has latest super-flu vaccine - This is frequently marketed - as has the latest super-flu vaccine statistics - to show a 50% improvement or reduction in illness. How is such a slight-of-hand accomplished? Easy: if you reduce (or claim to reduce, by carefully manipulating the parameters of a study) a 2% chance of something to just 1%, that is sold as a 50% decrease - but it is really only 1%! This is routinely done in pharmaceutical advertisement. Who would buy a drug knowing there is only a 1% possible improvement, with also the potential for many negative side effects? Not very many. Want to raise HDL? Try niacin derived from whole-food sources. Want to lower LDL? Take red rice yeast - the original statin - which acts like the drugs but in a natural and less aggressively. Note: LDL and HDL is in itself a big topic; one is not all bad and the other all good as the situation has often been portrayed. It is much more complex than that, and, furthermore, the 'normal' levels for these appears to have been manipulated for the purposes of research. Bottom line to understand in this example, cholesterol is not an enemy, but an essential substance in the body, needed for formation of the myelin sheath around nerves (the insulation on the ‘wiring’), 20% of the brain itself is made of cholesterol, and the best that current studies have shown is that there is a 1% chance in, even preventing a non-fatal heart attack or stroke in patients who already have heart disease, by taking statins for two or three years. Statin use actually INCREASES the risk of hemmorhagic stroke. And there has been NO study that has shown any risk factor whatsoever for cholesterol and women. Essentially, the cholesterol hypothesis as such is dead, and many researchers know it. A friend of mine who works at Marin General Hospital told me that a cardiac surgeon there told him that essentially I was right, that it is not cholesterol, but "inflammation and sugar and processed polyunsaturated (omega-6) vegetable oils that cause cardiac disease." To ‘blame’ cholesterol for helping heal a lesion in an artery is to blame a bandaid for a wound. Yet if a falsity is repeated enough times it becomes an accepted belief. Many doctors feel if they did not learn something in medical school or heard of it in a seminar then it does not exist. But school is just a bare beginning, and if a doctor is not studying a minimum of a few hours a week, month after month, year after year, he has little chance of being knowledgable of even the great number of studies reported in prestigious scientific journals, demonstrating that plant extracts, flavonoids, as well as specific vitamin-mineral mixtures, can powerfully affect cancer as well as many other conditions. The science is well developed, the wonder is that it is largely ignored.

   So, why was this John Hopkins meta-study a a flawed one? Among other reasons, there were no sophisticated dietary controls; no consistency in the use of WHOLE FOOD VITAMINS; no attempts at analyzing true tissue (intracellular) mineral levels to determine deficiencies (necessary because 95% of minerals are outside the blood and in the cells); and no screening of who used statin or cholesterol drugs, high blood pressure drugs; and use of only minimal dosages with little chance of effectiveness for treating serious conditions. To take a sick population, ALREADY with heart disease, and then monitor mortality based on the mere consumption of a one-a-day, chemically fractionated, poor quality and probably useless multivitamin-mineral supplement from their grocery store is not a very sophisticated sort of study, but an attempt to confuse and divert attention from the truth.

   [For a great discussion on the need for whole-food, low potency, natural vitamins/minerals/enzymes, and how greatly they differ from their fractionated, synthetic counterparts - largely manufactured by the big drug companies who are the main source for the majority of the one hundred or so supplement companies out there - I strongly encourage you to read this excellent article by Dr. Tim O'Shea, DC].

   [Having said this, it is also true that there is no doubt much hype in the supplement industry, and in the search for even such unfractionated nutrients - which admittedly are 'fractions' of the whole plant from which they come - we may be forced to realize, as David Katz said, that "our culture doesn't want to hear that the active ingredient in broccoli is broccoli." A balanced whole-plant-base diet is the prevention and cure for a myriad of ills, combining thousand of nutrients in amounts and ways that can never synthesized in a lab].

   Anyone who watches TV can see how bad most of those drugs are. The amazing and scary thing is that this is not even denied; it has really become an 'open secret'. Personally, I can think of very few if any of the major money-making drugs that are healthy or that can’t be substituted with by a non-toxic natural substance (except, perhaps, in a few cases, in an emergency). And if double-blind was the gold standard, then aspirin, the TV drugs, antibiotics - as well as vaccines, chemotherapy and radiation for cancer, etc., would never have become current practice. So it is dishonest to give some questionable treatments a pass and simultaneously deny access to substances proven clinically to work but, being natural, are not profitable to fund with big money. None of the medical ‘advances’ mentioned were adopted based on randomized, controlled double-blind studies. But good doctors all over the world are using many natural substances and actually curing things, whereas here doctors by and large are afraid of being sued for not using the established 'standard of care' (i.e., drugs and/or surgery), which means only when conventional dangerous things are exhausted can alternate things then be tried - when the patient is so depleted they will not do much good.

   By the way, I have a doctor friend who thirty-five years ago was diagnosed with terminal lymphoma by John Hopkins and given the proverbial ‘six months to live’ (a powerfully suggestive death sentence and admission of failure by the doctors) who cured himself by raw juice fasting, herbs, and other things during those ‘six months’. I am not arguing the specific merits of the course of treatment he pursued, but my point is he came back and, after they found no traces of cancer in his body, began to explain to the doctors what he had done - but they were not interested, writing his case off as a ‘spontaneous remission’. What this means is that they didn’t want to know anything that contradicted the theories that they already ‘knew’ were correct. But in science NO exceptions are allowed to any theory. If there are exceptions, the theory is wrong and there is another causal mechanism involved. Why resist learning about it? Yet this is the case too often today.

   Remarkably, the SAME John Hopkins that published this latest sweeping epiphany about supplements also released its own review of government statistics last year that stated that the THIRD LEADING CAUSE OF DEATH in this country (approximately 250,000 deaths) was MEDICAL ERROR - which included 100,000 deaths from ‘correct’ prescription of pharmaceutical drugs. Many argue this is understated, that such medical error in fact is now the LEADING cause of death. The 2003 study mentioned earlier stated 300,000 deaths, a 2014 study says 400,000, a book by researcher Gary Null estimates over 750,000 preventable deaths by medicine, and there is no reason to assume things are getting better. How ludicrous then is it to utter the lame conclusion that proper supplementation of an inadequate diet is unwarranted while hiding behind an aura of professionalism? If artificial, chemical drugs were subjected to anything even close to the standards their promoters want to hold vitamins and minerals to there is NO WAY ON EARTH they would ever be accepted as safe.

   It has been estimated that at least 70% of chronic diseases in this country can be treated successfully with dietary and lifestyle changes. Yet doctors in California had the temerity to recently fight tooth and nail against the inclusion of a mere 7 hours of nutrition education into the total 4000 hours of the medical school curriculum. "It is way too much time to allocate," some of them said. This is insane. A more reasonable demand would be for several hundred hours, and some real medical history as well.

   These are important, complex, and emotionally charged issues. Nevertheless, I challenge any medical doctor, and this paper, to a debate, one by one, on each of the major degenerative diseases from both a conventional and alternative perspective, in order to allow the public access to a free and unbiased point of view. Have you the courage and intellectual honesty to accept this challenge?


   Peter Holleran, BA, MA, DC
   San Rafael, California


   [Note: to date, there has been no response from the Marin Independent Journal]