Friday, March 18, 2005

On The Mark -- Here's To Your Health

Several years ago there were a number of studies published on the effectiveness of vitamin E supplements in helping to reduce heart disease and heart attacks. Since my father had had two heart attacks and two bypass surgeries, I put my typical skepticism aside and hurried to the local drugstore to buy large supplies, making sure to read the label correctly to get the right type of vitamin E at 400 international units since there are different versions (natural and manufactured). I was diligent in taking my daily supplement for a couple years, but eventually got lazy and relied strictly on my daily multi.

This week there was a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association revealing that, in a seven-year case study, not only did vitamin E NOT reduce the rate of cardiovascular and cancer disease in patients, it actually created INCREASED rates of heart failures among the patients who participated in the study.

How many times have we seen this where the front pages and broadcast news lead-ins reveal these new medical magic bullets, only to learn a few years later that the wonder drug or supplement actually had no effect or caused worse damages? Too many to count, I believe.

As I get closer to that magical age of 50, I find myself taking less and less medications of any kind. I let colds and viruses run their course, for example, or I take only natural remedies. My nephew is in med school right now to become a naturopathic doctor (he just went through the "white coat" ceremony), and I think he's really on to something.

I still think the best advice I ever got was from a client, Dr. Rene Favalaro, who standardized the heart bypass procedure at the Cleveland Clinic in the '60s. Sitting next to him on an airplane 20 years ago he told me to ignore everything I read about heart remedies and drink at least one glass of red wine every night -- that the natural ingredients in the skin of the red grape would keep my veins clean and clear. This was about 5 years before what's become known as the French Paradox, as first reported on "60 Minutes" in 1989.

That's when I started enjoying red wine, collecting and drinking, and I've been doing it ever since. So far, my heart is ticking just fine, thank you.


B2 said...

You should, as they say, live to 120 (you big drunk, you). But too much of anything can be bad for you -- even common sense.

And as for prescription medication, to which you almost alluded, I think if the FDA were not so anxious to approve meds with horrible side effects, drug companies might be pressured into making medication that helped you without harming you.

Chandira said...

I think people should take vit E, maybe not in large doses, but it's something you need.
I think it's a gradual erosion of these things by the FDA, to clear a path for their new 'miracle bullet' that they can charge more for.. Not that I'm verging on paranoia.. lol
Just massively skeptical. I notice these things.

I only go to a naturopath now. I haven't been to a conventional doctor in YEARS.
A glass of red wine DOES feel good. I have one once in a blue moon, it's the only alcohol I drink now.

Teresa said...

I'm all for healthy skepticism about what works and doesn't. But here's where I'm really doubtful: whether we can believe studies, even those published in reputable journals, that have been funded by the pharmaceutical industry. Or the researcher is getting money from them through another channel. Why take OTC Vitamin E when you can cough up $200 on a prescription?

Jack Steiner said...

It certainly can be frustrating. One day it is good for you and a week later it is the worst thing that you can do.

Chandira said...

I think a lot of times the worry about taking things does more harm..
I really don't see how Vit E can be harmful unless you're taking silly doeses.

I'd be more worried about what viagra does to a person's heart... They haven't said that's harmful, yet.

On The Mark said...

You know, it's interesting. As cynical as I am, the thought never occurred to me that the pharmaceutical industry may be behind this since vits could cut into their business. Thanks for the slap in the face.

I haven't tried the Viagra "thing" yet, but I'm guessing a lot of men would have to die before they'd want to stop using it :).