It can from time to time (some may say all of the time) seem as if the medical world simply wish, regardless of the building evidence pile, to deny the value of using concentrated food ingredients in the improvement of the human condition. In part this is aggravated by the overly bold statements that are sometimes made for individual nutrients and their lack of suitable studies. My experiences in the last few years suggest there remains a strong component of the medical establishment and its commentators who remain committed to continue to try and reduce the actual and perceived benefits of nutrients and co-factors. It began back in the early 1990s with Victor Herbert and has continued unbounded since, all the more with the availability of blogs and the internet.
This is further compounded by vested interests and the usual scrum of sceptics, some of whom are very astute and mostly fair, others, or perhaps the majority have long since lost a position of equanimity (a state of mental or emotional stability or composure arising from a deep awareness and acceptance of the present moment) and have their own axes to grind. The result is a plethora of cutting and pasting of the standard rhetoric and statements that suggest lack of comprehension and certainly lack of scientific openness.
To provide two examples of investigation and publication that suggest the role of micro-nutrients extends well beyond the increase in the value of your urine I have selected two studies, the first is a recent one, on mice – and whilst I agree that mice are not men, this is the fertile ground for early studies that may then lead to the more involved human studies.
In particular this first paper adds weight to the discussion that shows a multi-nutrient adds to brain functionality in aging mice.
httpv://youtu.be/rL3lgAG2RuEWe developed a complex dietary supplement designed to offset five key mechanisms of aging and tested its effectiveness in ameliorating age-related cognitive decline using a visually cued Morris water maze test. All younger mice (<1 year old)learned the task well. However, older untreated mice (>1 year) were unable to learn the maze even after 5 days, indicative of strong cognitive decline at older ages. In contrast, no cognitive decline was evident in older supplemented mice, even when ∼2 years old.
Supplemented older mice were nearly 50% better at locating the platform than age-matched controls. Brain weights of supplemented mice were significantly greater than controls, even at younger ages. Reversal of cognitive decline in activity of complexes III and IV by supplementation was significantly associated with cognitive improvement, implicating energy supply as one possible mechanism. These results represent proof of principle that complex dietary supplements can provide powerful benefits for cognitive function and brain aging.
The second paper looked at the role of supplements in the management of outcomes in patients with diagnosed bladder cancer. This is an older paper, published back in 1994, although as you are aware there remains considerable controversy in the oncology world about the role of food supplements by patients undergoing cancer therapy.
Epidemiological and laboratory studies suggest that vitamin supplements may be helpful in the prevention of some cancers but clinical trials to date have failed to demonstrate protection with naturally occurring vitamins.
Without substantiation of the highly touted benefits of vitamins, few physicians who care for cancer patients have recommended their use.
A total of 65 patients with biopsy confirmed transitional cell carcinoma (The most common tumour arising from the urothelial lining of the bladder usually consisting of transitional epithelium) of the bladder enrolled in a randomized comparison of intravesical bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) with or without percutaneous administration was also randomised by closed envelope to therapy with multiple vitamins in the recommended daily allowance (RDA) versus RDA multivitamins plus 40,000 units vitamin A, 100 mg. vitamin B6, 2,000 mg. vitamin C, 400 units vitamin E and 90 mg. zinc.
The addition of percutaneous BCG did not significantly lessen tumour recurrence but recurrence after 10 months was markedly reduced in patients receiving megadose vitamins.
The 5-year estimates of tumour recurrence are 91% in the RDA arm and 41% in the megadose arm (p = 0.0014, Mantel-Cox). Overall recurrence was 24 of 30 patients (80%) in the RDA arm and 14 of 35 (40%) in the high dose arm (p = 0.0011, 2-tailed Fisher’s exact test).
Megadose vitamins A, B6, C and E plus zinc decrease bladder tumour recurrence in patients receiving BCG immunotherapy. Further research will be required to identify which ingredient(s) provide this protection.
As health professionals in a young and developing profession we can often feel overwhelmed with the long arm of science being used to beat us up about lack of evidence and risk management. The whole experience of all professions is that they mature, evidence once seen as weak may become magnified or lost and visa versa, to leap all over claims of benefit with a blind outlook does no service to the scientific community. Let’s be thankful that many bright and energetic clinicians and researchers are not prepared to be fed the diet of skeptics and are prepared to ask questions and work with patients to help them recover lost health and maintain optimal function.
 Aksenov V, Long J, Liu J, Szechtman H, Khanna P, Matravadia S, Rollo CD. A complex dietary supplement augments spatial learning, brain mass, and mitochondrial electron transport chain activity in aging mice. Age (Dordr). 2011 Nov 27. [Epub ahead of print] View Abstract