Latest "research" is nothing but a hit job on multivitamins

You probably don't need me to tell you that natural foods and supplements are constantly under fire. But what's often less obvious is the war against virtually any form of over-the- counter, non-pharmaceutical health solution. And here's the latest salvo: a new study is claiming that there is zero evidence that multivitamins can be effective preventatives of heart disease and cancer in women.

But there's a silver lining to this attack: Experts are speaking out, criticizing this new study as flawed research.

The study in question - and as you'll see, it's definitely in question - was authored by Sylvia Wassertheil-Smoller, a professor of epidemiology and public health at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. She comes down very hard on multivitamins.

"Women can be encouraged by the fact that these vitamins seem to do no harm, but they also seem to confer no benefit," Wassertheil-Smoller says, adding that a healthy diet is "not the same as distilling it into a pill."

Well, no kidding professor. That's why multivitamins are called "supplements," not "replacements." This glib comment by the author of the study gives me pause. How seriously should I be taking a study whose author seems to have based the premise of the study on the childish idea that multivitamins are useless because they're no substitute for a healthy diet of real food?

Of course you know that I think this is all bunk. And others agree with me, like assistant professor of pharmaceutical sciences Rajat Sethi of Texas A&M University, who attacked the methodology of the new study, saying, "There are a lot of variables associated with this study, and unless there is an actual randomized, controlled trial, we can't say anything."

Andrew Shao, the vice president for scientific and regulatory affairs at the Council for Responsible Nutrition, said "From a practical standpoint, this study does not change the fact that the majority of consumers could benefit from taking an affordable multivitamin."

Attacks like these by Wassertheil-Smoller are nothing new. I've long defended multivitamins against arbitrary and alarmist attacks by the media and medical communities.

The most damning commentary on Wasstertheil-Smollers study actually comes from Wasstertheil Smoller herself: "Most of the women in the study probably did eat a fairly decent diet, meaning we don't yet necessarily know how vitamins affect women eating poorly," she said. "The other thing is we didn't measure other things about diet such as sense of energy and well-being."

Unfortunately for Wassertheil-Smoller, her research techniques aren't nearly as strong as her opinions.