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Editor's Correspondence
Mar 12, 2012

The Importance of Translating Research Skillfully to Benefit the Public

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliation: Office of Research, University of California, Davis.

Arch Intern Med. 2012;172(5):449-450. doi:10.1001/archinternmed.2011.1864

The recent article “Dietary Supplements and Mortality Rate in Older Women”1 reported increased mortality associated with use of vitamin supplements, and the message to fear supplements was echoed throughout major media outlets. In response to the study findings that were admittedly inconclusive by the authors because of the weak association between mortality and supplementation, Rita Redberg, MD, MSc,2 noted that the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act “allows” Americans to spend in excess of $20 billion annually for dietary supplements, missing the irony that this is less than 10% of the amount spent on pharmaceuticals annually and less than 1% of the annual US health care expenditure. Ironic still is that vitamin deficiency–related disease is so common that pharmaceuticals are now being formulated specifically for vitamin deficiencies.3 For example, a company called Cytochroma is currently developing a drug with the purpose of treating vitamin D deficiencies. Glenville Jones, PhD, is a coinventor of this drug and also contributed to the 2010 Institute of Medicine report4 discouraging large doses of vitamin D by reporting that a blood concentration of 50 nmol/L of 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25[OH]D) (to convert to nanograms per milliliter, divide by 2.496) is sufficient for disease prevention. In actuality, the concentration needed to prevent deficiency disease including osteoporosis, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and autoimmune diseases is 75 nmol/L of 25(OH)D,5 as recommended by the International Osteoporosis Foundation. Considering that millions of deaths have been attributed to pharmaceuticals6 and virtually none to vitamin supplementation,7 why would the research community risk confusing the American public with the message to fear supplementation?

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