Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Friday, February 15, 2013

And while we're on the subject of supplements . . .

Last time, I mentioned that lots of people take calcium supplements for "bone health." Well, you might want to think again. The linked article presents very complex statistical analysis, but to make a long story short the authors have done everything they can to control for potential confounding in an epidemiological cohort study. (They took advantage of a cohort of Swedish women recruited originally for a study of the benefits [or lack thereof] of screening mammography.)

The bottom line is that the body regulates the level of calcium in the blood very closely. Unless you have a real calcium deficiency, more calcium won't make your bones stronger, it will just be excreted. Up to a point, that is. The basic conclusion of this study is that calcium supplementation at low levels -- say from a multivitamin -- is probably harmless, but doesn't do you any good either. However, once you get above a certain threshold, about 1400 mg/day, which you can get from taking a specific calcium supplement, it sharply raises your risk for heart attacks and death.

So once again, the same message. Eat a half decent diet. Skip the supplements, you're wasting your money and more likely to be harming yourself than helping yourself. If you have a specific nutritional deficiency, it may be a different story. Talk to your doctor.

On another subject, Merck has agreed to pay investors $688 million for keeping secret the results of trials showing that it's highly profitable blockbuster drug Vytorin doesn't reduce the risk of heart disease. The company previously paid out a mere $41.5 million to consumers in a class action suit, and $5.4 million to state attorneys general. You may remember the advertisements featuring people dressed up to look like various foodstuff, touting the useless snake oil.

Sounds like a big victory for the good guys, right? Not so much. It's chump change. In its heyday, Vytorin was being prescribed at the rate of 800,000 new scrips per week, bringing in $5 billion in one year (2007). They made a ton of money, and had to cough up a few percent. That's why they keep doing it.


4 comments:

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Cervantes said...

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Ms. Addams is a liar and a thief.

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