UK nutritionist group criticises JAMA vitamin B study

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Vitamin Folic acid

UK group, the Health Supplements Information Service (HSIS), has added to criticism of a recent Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) study that found folic acid and vitamin B12 did not benefit heart attack survivors.

HSIS nutritionist Dr Carrie Ruxton said the study was an example of nutrients being asked to do that which they are not designed to do, or capable of doing.

“This latest review is yet another study that has attempted to use vitamin supplements in high doses as if they were drugs in a trial amongst patients who already had cardiovascular disease,”​ she said.

“Vitamin supplements are not intended for the treatment of chronic conditions such as cardiovascular disease and cancer. Supplements are for health maintenance and should be used to boost dietary levels of nutrients, an important role since we know that significant proportions of the UK population have lower than recommended vitamin intakes.”

Dr Ruxton’s comments echoed those of the US Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) reported in our coverage of the study and which can be found here.

Reduced homocysteine levels

She pointed out that while the study did not deliver benefits to the cardio-sick subjects, it did affirm the link between blood homocysteine levels and B vitamins. There were no side-effects despite the high dosage used in the trial.

“These patients were given high dose B vitamin supplements, higher than those generally available on sale to consumers in UK high streets,”​ she said.

“Taking Folic Acid and B12 supplements was not associated with a significant effect on any major cardiovascular event, stroke or cancer. There were no apparent differences in the numbers of deaths attributed to vascular causes or nonvascular causes. It is important to note that there were no negative effects of supplementation.”

HSIS is backed by the Proprietary Association of Great Britain which represents food supplements and over-the-counter medicines manufacturers.

The study found a daily dose of 2 milligrams of folic acid and 1 milligram of vitamin B12 for about seven years was associated with reductions in levels of the amino acid homocysteine, but this was not found to be beneficial to the subjects.

"It is unrealistic to expect a vitamin to undo a lifetime of unhealthy behaviours,”
said CRN’s Dr Duffy MacKay.

Source: JAMA
2010, Volume 303, Number 24, Pages 2486-2494
“Effects of Homocysteine-Lowering With Folic Acid Plus Vitamin B12 vs Placebo on Mortality and Major Morbidity in Myocardial Infarction Survivors: A Randomized Trial”
Authors: Study of the Effectiveness of Additional Reductions in Cholesterol and Homocysteine (SEARCH) Collaborative Group

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