Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:


Vitamin supplements do not cut risk of gastrointestinal cancer

BMJ 2004; 329 doi: (Published 07 October 2004) Cite this as: BMJ 2004;329:817

Rapid Response:

Antioxidant supplements - no convincing proof of hazard

It is difficult to understand why The Lancet's new style front cover
highlighted the quote, "The prospect that vitamin pills may not only do no
good but also kill their consumers is a scary speculationh given the vast
qualtities that are used in certain communities".

In contrast, in Talking Points The Lancet editor says that oxidative
stress may cause cancer. Although the meta-analysis by Goran Bjelakovic
and colleagues found no overall evidence of the expected prevention of
gastrointestinal cancers with antioxidant supplements, in the Comment
paper David Forman and Douglas Altman stated that this meta-analysis does
not offer convincing proof that supplements are a hazard.

Rather than being confused by conflicting results from flawed
epidemiological studies, why are valid and highly accurate tests not
genrally used to measure essential nutrient deficiencies? The commonest
deficiencies are of zinc and magnesium which cause impaired function of
hundreds of enzymes and basic antioxidant mechanisms. Nutritional
deficiencies are extremely common and potentially life threatening.
Repletion of deficiencies can be confirmed by measurements of cellular
concentrations and often also by functional tests.

The denigration of Nutritional Medicine because of the diverse
results of limited epidemiological studies is very tedious.

Competing interests:
None declared

Competing interests: No competing interests

10 October 2004
Ellen C G Grant
physician and medical gynaecologist
20 Coombe ridings, Kingston-upon-Thames, KT2 7JU, Uk