News from Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center is concerning for those of us that have been taking B6 and B12 for a long time. Amounts larger than 20 mg of B6 or 55 mcg of B12 a day for 10 years in men (but not women) resulted in a two to four fold increase in lung cancer risk. The big question I have is what about the methylated natural versions of these vitamins. Most assuredly, over 99% of the B6 and B12 taken by the participants in this study were in the forms of pyridoxine and cyanocobalamin. What about the active forms of B6 and B12 (P5P and Methylcobalamin)? What about the B6 and B12 found in food based supplements? My take on this is that large dose synthetic B complex alone or in a multivitamin is even more unwise than before. Taking the active coenzyme form or a whole food form has tremendous benefits and these forms typically have moderate amounts of the B vitamins.
When faced with new evidence, you make adjustments. You moderate when you need to and increase when you need to. Large doses of certain B vitamins can have some very positive effects. For example, a study has shown that migraine sufferers that take 400 mg of B2 have 37% fewer migraines than those that do not. This recent European study needs to be replicated, just as the cancer study on B6 and B12 needs to be before we are sure. But if I suffered from migraines, I would be taking the B2. Who wants to live in pain if you can easily do something about it? I am following this logic when I take 500 mg of Niacinamide twice a day, replicating the Australian skin cancer study which showed a 23% decrease in skin cancer in those that take 1000 mg a day of Nicotinamide (Niacinamide, a form of B3). If I can decrease my chance of skin cancer, that is a logical choice for me.
So a nuanced, logical approach to supplementing based on individual needs, that changes based on the latest available evidence is what I feel is best. Now if you have read a recent popular magazine article synopsis on MSN lately, you will get a starkly different interpretation. In the article “8 Vitamins That Are a Total Waste of Money—and Could Even Be Dangerous”, they discuss vitamins A (in the form beta-carotene), B6, B12, C, E, folic acid, selenium and zinc. Is it a nuanced discussion showing pros and cons of these supplements? Not so much. It is the typical “run to the doctor before you dare take these worthless, dangerous supplements” article. But the thing that gets me on this one is that they throw shade on some great supplements that are rarely referred to as dangerous, namely Vitamin C and Zinc.
The slant of the article in my opinion is geared against supplements. One comment was that Zinc has not been shown to help with colds and may actually weaken the immune system. But there is a link in the article to another article titled “8 Things Doctors and Nurses Do to Stop a Cold in Its Tracks”. This article aside from the normal take some Tylenol type of advice, also states that taking zinc the second you feel a cold could make a big difference and quotes the National Institute of Health for evidence. WAIT! I thought Zinc was one of the 8 vitamins that were a total waste of money. Of course, few people are going to hit the embedded link and read the contradictory information. Many will use this article as a rationale to quit taking supplements, many of which can be crucial to better health, such as Vitamin C and Zinc.
And speaking of Vitamin C, a report in Science News is just one of many that illustrate potential and proven benefits of Vitamin C. It states that “Not much is known about stem cell metabolism, but a new study from the Children's Medical Center Research Institute at UT Southwestern (CRI) has found that stem cells take up unusually high levels of vitamin C, which then regulates their function and suppresses the development of leukemia.”
"We have known for a while that people with lower levels of ascorbate (vitamin C) are at increased cancer risk, but we haven't fully understood why. Our research provides part of the explanation, at least for the blood-forming system," said Dr. Sean Morrison, the Director of CRI.
Wow! Sounds like someone needs to run to Dallas and tell the University of Texas Southwest Medical Center that Vitamin C is a waste of money and might be dangerous. To be fair, many bloggers and book writers that encourage supplementation make inaccurate claims. It is up to us to use logic and common sense to determine our best protocols for health. In today’s environment, it is the only thing we have to trust in.