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Inside CBS' News Story: Are Herbal Supplements Hurting You? A Breakdown Of Mr. Hurley's Comments.

Are people at risk? – CBS posts a document by Dan Hurley who gives his side of the story about how supplements are a waste of money and not safe. Read on as I point out studies which contradict his statements.

On "Inside CBS Evening News" we saw a documentary report about the risk people take when they buy herbal products. As the title said "Are Herbal Supplements Hurting You?"

With that question in mind we heard from a skeptic, Mr. Dan Hurley (writer from medical and science articles) about how the supplements companies are making millions at the expense of people's ignorance.

Mr. Hurley sounds very well documented since he writes a book about this dilemma called Natural Causes. In his book he mentions some studies about the little reliability and no proof that supplements really work. He even tries to question the benefits from vitamins and minerals. (Just to bring you an example of the kind of criticism Mr. Hurley is all about)

CBS Evening News

Supplement Studies

Now that I have made a good introduction about the direction CBS Evening News is taking, I want to add to the table some studies about supplements that people use and are accepted by institutions of medicine and universities.

University of Tennessee:

    For example we have a study about the effects of calcium and dairy products on body composition and weight loss in African American adults put together by the department of nutrition at the University of Tennessee. The objective of this investigation was to determine the effects of dairy consumption on adiposity and body composition in obese African Americans.

    The methods and procedures used for this study were performed with two randomized trials in obese African-American adults. In the first (weight maintenance), 34 subjects were maintained on a low calcium (500 mg/d)/low dairy (<1 serving/d) or high dairy (1200 mg Ca/d diet including 3 servings of dairy) diet with no change in energy or macronutrient intake for 24 weeks.

    In the second trial (weight loss), 29 subjects were similarly randomized to the low or high dairy diets and placed on a caloric restriction regimen (-500 kcal/d).

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University Of Maryland:

    In another study (Article) brought by the University of Maryland (Medical Center) said that Vitamin C deficiency can lead to:

    • Dry and splitting hair
    • Gingivitis (inflammation of the gums) and bleeding gums
    • Rough, dry, scaly skin
    • Decreased wound-healing rate, easy bruising
    • Nosebleeds
    • Weakened enamel of the teeth
    • Swollen and painful joints
    • Anemia
    • Decreased ability to ward off infection
    • And, possibly, weight gain because of slowed metabolic rate and energy expenditure

    A severe form of vitamin C deficiency is known as scurvy, which mainly affects older, malnourished adults.

    In the late 18th century James Lind observed that the symptoms of scurvy could be counteracted with an unknown (at the time) substance in citrus fruits. In 1795, the British Royal Navy provided a daily ration of lime or lemon juice based on Lind's method of concentration to all its men. To this day English sailors are called "limeys."

    The body does not manufacture vitamin C on its own, nor does it store it. It is therefore important to include plenty of vitamin C from natural or synthetic sources like vitamin C, also called ascorbic acid, in a wide variety of forms.

    Tablets, capsules, and chewables are probably the most popular, but vitamin C also comes in powdered crystalline, effervescent, and liquid forms. Vitamin C can be purchased in dosages ranging from 25 mg to 1,000 mg.

      Jacqueline A. Hart, MD, Department of Internal Medicine, Newton-Wellesley Hospital, Harvard University and Senior Medical Editor Integrative Medicine, Boston, MA; Gary Kracoff, RPh (Pediatric Dosing section February 2001), Brian T Sanderoff, PD, BS in Pharmacy (March 2000), Clinical Assistant Professor, University of Maryland School of Pharmacy; President, Your Prescription for Health, Owings Mills, MD; Ira Zunin, MD, MPH, MBA (July 2000), President and Chairman, Hawaii State Consortium for Integrative Medicine, Honolulu, HI.

Oregon State University:

    In a study made by Oregon state University about the interaction of Vitamin C and Vitamin E in smokers, showed that vitamin C stops the process of depletion of vitamin E that occurs in smokers. So for the first time in a scientific human test it was possible to demonstrate the benefits of the interaction of these two antioxidants.

    Vitamin C Articles:

    The investigators tests were based on placebo controlled, double blind clinical studies with smokers and non smokers and the results from these tests showed that daily supplementation of Vitamin C (in 1000 milligrams doses) reduced by 45 percent the rate of disappearance of one form of vitamin E in smokers. As a note to mention: Vitamin C extends vitamin E activity by reducing oxidized tocopherol so that it may again function as an antioxidant.

      "A lot of nutrition research in the past has been done by studying one nutrient or another in isolation, sometimes with conflicting results. What this and other studies like it are showing is that the protection we get from proper diet or supplements often come from combinations of nutrients working together. This has implications not only for smokers but also for many other people"

      - Maret Traber, OSU & lead Researcher In The Linus Pauling Institute

    Vitamin E is the first line of defense against lipid peroxidation that refers to the oxidative degradation of lipids. It is the process whereby free radical steals electrons from the lipids in cell membranes, resulting in cell damage. If the body has adequate levels of vitamin E, this protective antioxidant can interact with the peroxyl radicals created by cigarette smoke and prevent the destruction of lung membranes.

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      "In this process, however, vitamin E can itself be made into a destructive radical. If adequate levels of vitamin C are present, it can help the vitamin E return to non-radical form and continue its protective role. But in the absence of adequate vitamin C, this process breaks down."

      - Linus Pauling Institute

    At the Oregon State University researches from the Linus Pauling Institute not only discovered the interaction of both Vitamins but also shown that in smokers, vitamin E is being depleted from tissue concentrations in order to keep up its levels in the blood.

      "We've known for some time that smokers are under oxidative stress, because the smoke itself is an oxidant that creates free radicals and cell mutations," Traber said. "The immune response of the body also tends to cause inflammation, and this inflammation is one reason that smoking relates not only to lung cancer but other serious health problems such as diabetes, hypertension and heart disease."

      - Maret Traber Ph.D, OSU

    Statistics publicized in different journals demonstrate the low consumption of vitamin E in the American diet. Some numbers presented show that 8 percent of men and 2.4 percent of women have adequate dietary consumption of vitamin E and also smokers from both sexes consume less than 2 and 1.5 percent. That's why smokers are more susceptible to some disease than the average people.

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    The consumption of these two antioxidants in adequate levels is important for the prevention of health problems like diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, etc.

Vitamin C & The Common Cold:

    Just to make things balance, despite the popular belief that vitamin C can cure the common cold, the scientific evidence supporting this conviction is limited.

    There have been a few studies suggesting that taking large doses of vitamin C supplements at the onset of cold or flu symptoms, or just after exposure to one of these viruses, can shorten the duration of the cold or ward it off altogether. However, the majority of studies, when looked at collectively, lead researchers to conclude that vitamin C does not prevent or treat the common cold.

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    Some experts suggest that vitamin C may only be useful in case of a cold if you have low levels of this nutrient to begin with. Another possibility is that the likelihood of success may be very individual - some improve, while others do not.

    If you are amongst the 67 percent of people who believe that vitamin C is helpful for your colds, there may be power in your conviction. In other words, your experience is probably more important than what the research is stating.

Do You Use Vitamin C To Fight Your Colds?



Now that we have a good idea about the statements made by CBS in their evening report and some investigations supporting the use of supplements, we can conclude that they never add to the scene the benefits and reliable resources of investigation of the supplement companies and medicine institutions.

Forum Threads:

Just bringing to the picture some customers with bad experience of supplements from Non reliable brands doesn't mean that every company in the supplement business have no ethic in it's methods of investigation and responsibility for the customers they represent.


  1. David Stauth. Study With Smokers Finds That Vitamins Combine for Benefits. Found on January 17, 2007 [ online ]

Supporting Research:

  1. Ausman LM. Criteria and recommendations for vitamin C intake. Nutr Review. 1999;57(7):222-229.
  2. Braun BL, Fowles JB, Solberg L, Kind E, Healey M, Anderson R. Patient beliefs about the characteristics, causes, and care of the common cold: an update. J Fam Pract. 2000;49(2):153-156.
  3. Carr AC, Frei B. Toward a new recommended dietary allowance for vitamin C based on antioxidant and health effects in humans. Am J Clin Nutr. 1999;69(6):1086-1107.
  4. Diplock AT. Safety of antioxidant vitamins and beta-carotene. Am J Clin Nutr. 1995;62(6 Suppl):1510S-1516S.
  5. E. L. Melanson, W. T. Donahoo, F. Dong, T. Ida, and M. B. Zemel Effect of Low- and High-Calcium Dairy-Based Diets on Macronutrient Oxidation in Humans Obesity, December 1, 2005; 13(12): 2102 - 2112.
  6. J. R. Holman. Dairy Data Deliver Mixed Messages DOC News, October 1, 2005; 2(10): 8 - 9.
  7. Levine M, Rumsey SC, Daruwala R, Park JB, Wang Y. Criteria and recommendations for vitamin C intake. JAMA. 1999;281(15):1415-1453.
  8. M. B. Zemel. The Role of Dairy Foods in Weight Management J. Am. Coll. Nutr., December 1, 2005; 24(suppl_6): 537S - 546S.
  9. P. J. Huth, D. B. DiRienzo, and G. D.Miller. Major scientific advances with dairy foods in nutrition and health. J Dairy Sci, April 1, 2006; 89(4): 1207 - 1221.
  10. Y. l. Bronner, A. S. Hawkins, M. L. Holt, M. B. Hossain, R. H. Rowel, K. L. Sydnor, and S. P. Divers Models for Nutrition Education to Increase Consumption of Calcium and Dairy Products among African Americans J. Nutr., April 1, 2006; 136(4): 1103 - 1106.