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Published on 6 March 2007

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Favourable assessment of reports on vitamin supplements raising risk of death

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A favourable assessment of UK newspaper reports on vitamin pills increasing the risk of death has been published by the NHS’s National Electronic Library for Health (NELH).

The Times, Guardian, Sun, Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph newspapers reported the findings of a systematic review and meta-analysis published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

According to the NELH assessment, the newspaper reports accurately described the key details of the review. Furthermore, the NELH assessment of the review concludes that:

“The authors searched several relevant sources without language restrictions, so they are likely to have found most or all of the relevant research studies. Study selection, quality assessment and data extraction were carried out in duplicate, reducing the risk of error and bias.

“Trials included varied populations (general population, patients with gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, neurological, skin, ocular, renal and rheumatoid diseases), and compared antioxidants with different properties, at different doses and duration, singly or in combination with different additional supplements, and the results should be interpreted in light of these variations. Differences between the studies, particularly in terms of trial quality, were assessed. It might have been useful to separate healthy populations from disease specific populations. In addition, all-cause mortality was not a primary outcome for a number of the included trials.

“The authors also state that many of the included trials investigated the effects of supplements administered at higher doses than those found in a balanced diet and some trials used doses well above recommended daily allowances, as such generalisability to recommended levels might be difficult.

“The authors also add that the trials assessed the influence of synthetic antioxidants and that findings should not be translated to potential effects of fruits or vegetables.”

National Electronic Library for Medicines 05/03/2007



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