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ANH slams NHS supplements report

By Shane Starling , 20-Jun-2011

ANH-EU has joined other trade groups in condemning the NHS report's anti-supplement conclusions...and the motivations of its author
ANH-EU has joined other trade groups in condemning the NHS report's anti-supplement conclusions...and the motivations of its author

The Alliance for Natural Health Europe (ANH-EU) has slammed a recent UK National Health Service (NHS) report which questioned the effectiveness of most food supplements as the statement of an increasingly politically motivated body.

The ANH-EU said the NHS report titled, ‘Supplements: who needs them?’ A special report’ aligned the UK government body with, “the European Union (EU) view of food supplements: a ‘reform’ that has not been trumpeted by anyone within or outside government.”

“Researched and written by Bazian Ltd. – a company with significant links to stories covered in the past by ANH-Intl – the report is a tissue of half-truths, distortions and omissions that seeks to condition the UK public to accept the effects of several strands of EU legislation as being ‘evidence based’,” ANH-EU said.

The NHS report investigates vitamin and mineral supplements along with herbs and other specialty products like omega-3s and states: “The claims the media makes [about supplements] aren’t always supported by the underlying research…”

It goes on to observe that, ”The European Food Safety Authority has looked at the science behind the health claims of thousands of different supplements [and]…it has turned down roughly 80% of these claims…”.

Antioxidants

ANH-EU takes the report to task in reference to a Cochrane Library review of antioxidants.

“Vitamins A and E and beta-carotene…may even increase the risk of death,” the report says of the Cochrane conclusions.

But ANH-EU observed: This was merely another look at existing data that rejected many studies, compared studies that were not really comparable and looked exclusively at synthetic forms of vitamins: the forms produced by pharma companies.”

“ANH-Intl has dealt extensively with this blatant anti-vitamin bad science propaganda before, but it’s depressing in the extreme to see the NHS adopt it so unquestioningly and present it to the public as scientific evidence against antioxidant vitamins.”

It added: For example, the report found no space for an earlier review by Fairfield and Fletcher that supported supplementation as a means of preventing chronic illnesses. Any objective look at vitamin science would have to include Dr Bruce Ames’ triage theory, which strongly supports the importance of supplementation to redress moderate deficiencies in micronutrients. Crucially, it is a powerful argument against setting maximum permitted levels (MPLs) of vitamins and minerals in food supplements, as mandated by the FSD.”

The ANH-EU questioned the credibility of report author Bazian Ltd in condemning the report and the motivations behind it.

“…at a time when chronic diseases are on the rise, the report twists science to give a completely false picture of the uselessness of food supplementation – one of the key strategies that could help to reverse the trend. In doing so, the NHS hires a company with a proven track record of ignoring scientific objectivity and public responsibility in its pursuit of both profit, and a craven desire to please its paymasters.

The public are treated like idiots at every turn, worthy neither of respect nor the information they need to maintain good health.”

HFMA response

Previously, the UK Health Food Manufacturers' Association (HFMA) had rejected the report's backing of 'regular diets' in pointing to UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) statistics that showed only 13% of men and 15% of women aged 19 to 64 ate the government-recommended five portions of fruit and vegetables every day.

“In an ideal world, our diet would provide us with all the vitamins and minerals that our body needs,” said HFMA executive director Graham Keen.

He added: “One must remember that the natural health industry and HFMA members already operate in one of the toughest regulatory environments in the world. A high level of consumer protection is already ensured by the UK’s regulatory and enforcement agencies, including the Advertising Standard Authority (ASA) which protects consumers from misleading claims, the Medicine and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) which regulates medicinal claims, and Trading Standards which carries out local enforcement.”

European and international trade groups backed the position of their UK counterparts.

The NHS report can be found here.

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