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Medicine

The Man Who Convinced Us We Needed Vitamin Supplements 707

Posted by samzenpus
from the drink-your-juice dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The Atlantic has an interesting piece on the life and work of the scientist most responsible for moms around the world giving their kids Vitamin C tablets to fight off colds, Linus Pauling. From the article: 'On October 10, 2011, researchers from the University of Minnesota found that women who took supplemental multivitamins died at rates higher than those who didn't. Two days later, researchers from the Cleveland Clinic found that men who took vitamin E had an increased risk of prostate cancer. "It's been a tough week for vitamins," said Carrie Gann of ABC News. These findings weren't new. Seven previous studies had already shown that vitamins increased the risk of cancer and heart disease and shortened lives. Still, in 2012, more than half of all Americans took some form of vitamin supplements. What few people realize, however, is that their fascination with vitamins can be traced back to one man. A man who was so spectacularly right that he won two Nobel Prizes and so spectacularly wrong that he was arguably the world's greatest quack.'"
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The Man Who Convinced Us We Needed Vitamin Supplements

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  • Diet and laziness (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dreamchaser (49529) on Sunday July 21, 2013 @03:03PM (#44344173) Homepage Journal

    In very rare cases does someone need to take any supplements at all. If one pays attention to having a proper diet one can get all the vitamins needed naturally. Part of the whole vitamin craze is how lazy people are. It can take some thought and effort to eat a healthy diet containing all the nutrients a body needs to thrive. It's quite worth doing so though.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 21, 2013 @03:14PM (#44344269)

    Let's take the 10s of thousands of studies done on nutritional supplements, ignore them and determine if supplements are placebos or worse based on our ad hominem attack on a single person.

  • Peer review (Score:4, Insightful)

    by girlintraining (1395911) on Sunday July 21, 2013 @03:17PM (#44344293)

    A man who was so spectacularly right that he won two Nobel Prizes and so spectacularly wrong that he was arguably the world's greatest quack.

    Being wrong doesn't make you a quack, slashdot. You can follow the scientific method perfectly and arrive at the wrong result. In fact, you can be fairly certain that most of what we think we know today will later be proven wrong. Even Einstein said he hoped people would one day prove him wrong -- being proven wrong means progress. It means a better understanding of the universe. Scientists, real ones, don't mind being wrong, or mistaken. Sure, there's pride in one's work, and yes, that can make it hard for people to accept a new truth. But by and far, scientists do get around to doing it.

    A quack is someone who doesn't use the right process, who avoids peer review, who insists they can't be wrong. They aren't true scientists. This man won two nobel prizes because he followed the scientific process. And, today, that process is still being followed, and that man's original assertions are now wrong. Taking vitamins is something tens of thousands of doctors and medical professionals have advised. Researchers the world over have endorsed it. That doesn't happen with, say, magnetically vortexed water that some people believe has a "higher energy level" and is thus more beneficial to drink, or that crystals or magnets will somehow improve our health.

    It's wrong to put him in the same category as those people. Slashdot, you fail, and you should be ashamed. You should issue a retraction immediately -- you're using words and making accusations that you don't really understand. Your editors are stating opinions that are overall harmful to the scientific and medical community.

    People who search for the truth should never be called names, or subjected to ridicule. That is the ultimate goal of all science. The fact that people get it wrong is inconsequential, as long as they did their best to get it right. Shame, slashdot. Shame on you.

  • by pipatron (966506) <pipatron@gmail.com> on Sunday July 21, 2013 @03:24PM (#44344335) Homepage

    In very rare cases does someone need to take any supplements at all. If one pays attention to having a proper diet one can get all the vitamins needed naturally. Part of the whole vitamin craze is how lazy people are. It can take some thought and effort to eat a healthy diet containing all the nutrients a body needs to thrive. It's quite worth doing so though.

    So uhm, yeah. Which one is it? Rare cases or almost all cases?

  • by prasadsurve (665770) on Sunday July 21, 2013 @03:28PM (#44344365)
    I am on Atkins diet. Basically I am eating only meat. (Almost) No vegetable, no fruits, no bread, no rice, no sweets. YES YES I know this diet will horrify some people and yes I know it is not very healthy. But it is effective and I will come off it slowly and start eating vegetables and fruits. But so long as I am on such a diet, I think I need to take Vitamin (and Fiber) supplements.
  • by the grace of R'hllor (530051) on Sunday July 21, 2013 @03:31PM (#44344385)
    True in theory, but false in practice. Food today, even freshly grown food, isn't the same the world over, and it isn't the same as it was 50 years ago. It is almost certainly poorer in quality. For nutrients to find their way into vegetables, they have to be in the ground first, and if they aren't there, then you don't get to eat them.

    Also, we don't live naturally. Natural humans don't spend most of their days indoors under artificial lighting doing entirely physically undemanding work.

    Also, there are food deserts, places where getting actual real grown food is not practically possible, and fabricated food is the only type available. The concept is well known in the US.
  • Re:Peer review (Score:4, Insightful)

    by rgbrenner (317308) on Sunday July 21, 2013 @03:31PM (#44344395)

    Why are you such a troll? First, the quote is from the article. So it's the writers fault, not slashdot's.

    Second, you should try reading TFA. You say, "A quack is someone who doesn't use the right process, who avoids peer review, who insists they can't be wrong.".

    Guess what? If you read the fucking article, you would know that he did exactly that.

    He tried to publish articles in a journal he had input into that would not scientifically valid just because they pushed his pro-vitamin agenda. He refused to believe studies that were published proving him wrong, and said they were personal attacks against him.

    So please, STFU. You clearly didn't read the article. You go off on some rant that literally makes no sense at all,

  • by mark-t (151149) <markt@@@lynx...bc...ca> on Sunday July 21, 2013 @03:36PM (#44344429) Journal
    It's only necessary in rare cases, you suggest... but then you state that it requires work and effort to eat healthy.

    So no... it's not rare at all. Most people don't eat as properly as they should. Cutting out vitamin supplements won't change that... it will just lead to more people with vitamin deficiencies.

  • by Type44Q (1233630) on Sunday July 21, 2013 @03:41PM (#44344457)

    Seven previous studies had already shown that vitamins increased the risk of cancer and heart disease and shortened lives.

    It shouldn't take a microbiologist or an organic chemist to figure out that vitamins aren't the problem; saturating ourselves with vitamins in a form we're not adapted to utilize are obviously the issue. Translation: stay away from the pills and and supplments section of that so-called "healthfood store" and go to the farmers' market, dumbasses!

  • Re:The truth is (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dinfinity (2300094) on Sunday July 21, 2013 @03:45PM (#44344497)

    What IS bad for you are la mayoría de pills, supplements, things in cans, fake 'diet' brownies and cookies, sugar, processed foods, vegetable oils except for olive, processed starches, and alta energy/low nutrition foods que conforman the bulk of the 'western diet'. Eat meat, quality fats, las frutas enteras and veg and steer clear of the alta rentabilidad, easy to produce artículos hechos de grains and processed starches.

    You're kidding, right? Five very insightful paragraphs showing how hard research into nutrition is and how most 'nutritional facts' have no proper basis in science followed by a ridiculous list of different largely unsupported nutritional claims?

    '[Processed foods are bad]'? Really?? What the fuck is 'processed food' even?
    Next you're going to say that 'additives' and 'chemicals' are 'bad for you'.

  • Re:Peer review (Score:5, Insightful)

    by girlintraining (1395911) on Sunday July 21, 2013 @03:45PM (#44344501)

    You can't really blame him for reaching the conclusion that he did.

    Well, we could, but it's silly. Science is a self-correcting mechanism. But just like an airplane in flight, it's almost always flying in the wrong direction. Somehow, you still manage to get where you're going, because of minute course corrections. I take great offense to this editor posting such drivel on the front page of a website that caters to the scientific and technical communities, and nothing short of a front page retraction is satisfactory. The sooner -- the better. I can understand getting one's facts wrong, but this is just plain slanderous! This kind of crap should never have made it past even the most mediocre editorial staff.

  • by jcr (53032) <jcr@mEULERac.com minus math_god> on Sunday July 21, 2013 @03:50PM (#44344533) Journal

    Food today, even freshly grown food, isn't the same the world over, and it isn't the same as it was 50 years ago. It is almost certainly poorer in quality.

    Citation needed. What reason do you have to believe that food quality has diminished in the last 50 years?

    -jcr

  • by EdZ (755139) on Sunday July 21, 2013 @04:26PM (#44344783)
    This is almost endemic among Nobel winners. E.g. Josephson: pioneer in the field of superconductivity, but thinks Homeopathy is real.
  • by Cyberax (705495) on Sunday July 21, 2013 @04:27PM (#44344789)
    What the fuck? Nutrients do not "find their way into vegetables" (apart from microelements like zinc or iodine that are concentrated by some plants) - they are _synthesized_ by plants. And let me tell you - the current cultivars are almost invariably better at that than their 1950 era relatives.
  • by djdanlib (732853) on Sunday July 21, 2013 @05:11PM (#44345123) Homepage

    Neither does "heirloom", but there is a craze in home gardens to buy those seeds.

    "Weed killer resistant" does not necessarily equate to "less nutritious". It might be totally unrelated, a different axis on the chart. I think. Haven't really seen anything to suggest otherwise.

  • by F.Ultra (1673484) on Sunday July 21, 2013 @05:27PM (#44345217)
    Nonsense, the products at places like McDonald's are stuffed with ascorbic acid as a preservative and that is just another name for vitamin C.
  • by hrvatska (790627) on Sunday July 21, 2013 @05:28PM (#44345231)
    Is there any evidence that roundup ready crops are less nutritious?
  • by mtpaley (2652983) on Sunday July 21, 2013 @05:39PM (#44345315)
    Not convinved that there is a cause and effect here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Third-cause_fallacy [wikipedia.org] On the Vitamin E prostate cancer link that is easily resolved. First assume that there is no correlation then assume that people have read articles saying that it is helpful (this link implies that such information was around http://www.nih.gov/researchmatters/october2011/10172011supplements.htm [nih.gov]). So people with prostate cancer or at high risk took vitamin E and eventually had a higher death rate. Does the article take such things into account?
  • by hedwards (940851) on Sunday July 21, 2013 @05:40PM (#44345327)

    Do you have any evidence to support that view point?

    Seriously, put together a 2000 calorie diet that gets 100% of the RDA for all those vitamins and minerals, then come back and tell us about how dangerous and unecessary multivitamins are. Bottom line is that apart from A, D, E and K, pretty much all the other ones just wash out of your system before becoming dangerous. B6 and the minerals can also cause some problems if you're taking in too much, but you'd have to work on that.

    There's a very good reason why multivitamins exist, and that's because it's non-trivial to get enough nutrients in even healthy foods. And that's assuming that you have the time and energy to properly select and prepare your foods. It also assumes that your body needs the same amount of nutrients as the information suggests. Which may or may not apply.

  • by ArsonSmith (13997) on Sunday July 21, 2013 @05:41PM (#44345337) Journal

    You and your "evidence" I'll depend on my gut instinct thank you very much.

  • by MightyYar (622222) on Sunday July 21, 2013 @10:00PM (#44346627)

    Can I be included in his "Nutter Nut" label? People who run off and believe anything they read without any kind of critical thought are an honest-to-goodness threat to democracy. Birthers, truthers, AGW deniers, anti-vaccine nutters, young earthers, homeopaths, intelligent design advocates, etc. should make the "weird news" segment at the end of the night, not have a serious voice in our society. This is what we get for years of neglected science education in this country - a bunch of flat earthers and geocentrists right here in the modern day.

  • by gr8_phk (621180) on Sunday July 21, 2013 @10:26PM (#44346781)

    "Weed killer resistant" does not necessarily equate to "less nutritious".

    No, it doesn't translate to "less nutritious", it translates to "covered in pesticides" which may have their own negative effects regardless of the basic nutrition of the plants.

  • by Demonantis (1340557) on Monday July 22, 2013 @12:01AM (#44347245)
    I think he was talking about trace minerals being drawn from the ground. I doubt the plants would grow without them being present irregardless. The potato greens and nightsade are toxic since they manufacture Solanine to deter predetors so I don't understand your point there. And yes amino acids are created in the plant, but are a part of the nitrogen cycle and not just water and co2, but is a careful balance of symbiotic creatures or fertilizer to provide fix nitrogen to the plant.
  • ha? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by superwiz (655733) on Monday July 22, 2013 @12:11AM (#44347279) Journal
    Shortened lives? Correlation v causation strikes again. It is entirely possible that the people who took vitamins lived long enough to develop cancer (and didn't die from other organ failures caused by shortage of vitamins). This is almost like arguing that nursing homes cause deaths because people in nursing homes die at higher rates than residents of other homes.
  • by Internetuser1248 (1787630) on Monday July 22, 2013 @02:39AM (#44347763)

    Not to mention progressives. Because you know, it takes not knowing anything about 20th century to think that leftist ideas don't lead to mass starvation.

    Is it seriously your argument: Working towards social equality causes starvation because Stalin and Mao (and probably Pol Pot)?
    There are some serious gaps in your education my friend. I don't have the hours it would take to correct this unfortunately.

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