MAIL BAG

'Massive amounts of vitamins might do harm, just like too many cheeseburgers’

May 5 2008
MAIL BAG

'Massive amounts of vitamins might do harm, just like too many cheeseburgers’

May 5 2008

'Massive amounts of vitamins might do harm, just like too many cheeseburgers’

MAIL BAG

OH, TAKE A PILL

CATHY GULLl’S STORY about vitamin consumption in Canada and its potential hazards was informative (“How vitamins can be hazardous to your health,” Health, April 2l). In it she quotes Gerry Harrington, of the Nonprescription Drug Manufacturers Association in Ottawa, who points out the persistent nature of a legion of contradictory studies. Those studies, be they prospective, retrospective or quasi-experimental, have confounded consumers. Studies can be dangerous—and studies of studies can often be traced to a funding source that clearly indicates a de facto conflict of interest. A battle royal has developed between those in the natural medicine industry and those in the business of pharmaceutical drugs and allopathic medicine. “Natural” surely does equate with safe, yet we do need good education about safe consumption by way of appropriate warnings on the bottles themselves. In the end, I think natural medicine should be left in the hands of those who are trained in this area. D.Jack Grasse, naturopathic doctor,

Geary, N.B.

CERTAINLY, TAKING MASSIVE amounts of some vitamins might do harm, just like drinking too many colas or eating too many cheeseburgers. But Cathy Gulli’s article could have been valuable had she eliminated years-old misinformation and encouraged plain old common sense. What is needed is a thoroughly researched compilation of information gained from properly designed studies on the whole issue of nutrition and health. As for me, I’m 67 years old. I have most of the hair I was born with and it’s still the original colour. I don’t get sick. I don’t need eyeglasses. Everything else still works and I should mention that I have been taking vitamin supplements for 30 years.

Jerold Schoof, Ardrossan, Alta.

THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT introduced natural health product regulations in 2004 to ensure that they were of high quality, efficacious and were produced with labels that contained all the necessary information for consumers to make informed choices, such as directions for use, full ingredient disclosure and contraindications. There is no doubt that better communication and education needs to happen, not only between consum-

ers and their health care practitioners, but also between the media and the consumer. The media has the responsibility to ensure balanced reporting including the use of fair and accurate headlines.

Canadians are looking for information and educating themselves in order to make healthy choices in achieving optimal health and quality of life. The Canadian Health Food Association and its members are committed to ensuring that consumers have the necessary information and the highest quality products available in order to make those choices. Penelope Marrett, President and CEO, Canadian Health Food Association, Toronto

NUTRITION HOUSE CANADA is a franchise operation with over 70 retail health food stores across Canada. Our focus is to sell vitamins, minerals and herbal supplements, as well as sports nutrition and diet products to customers. Our store operators are dedicated to their business and their customers, and we pride ourselves on our knowledge about products and the natural health industry.

Your article sends the message that the natural health products industry is one with no merits, values, or regulations, the opposite of what this industry is about. It evokes scare tactics and fails to present all the facts. While I will admit there may be some risks in taking certain natural health products, which for the most part are listed as contraindications on the label, natural health supplements rarely have negative side effects. In nearly 20 years in this industry, I have yet to hear about

someone who has overdosed on vitamin C or omega-3, or any other supplement.

To suggest and support the notion that supplements should be treated as a form of medication is counterproductive to the natural health industry and only supports the pharmaceutical drug companies that would like nothing more than to ensure affordable, supportive natural health products are out of reach to the public.

Catherine Deslippe, Vice-President of Operations, Nutrition House Canada Inc., Vancouver

THE ARTICLE HANGS on two premises: that vitamins are the most damaging at doses 10 or more times higher than the recommended daily intake, and the incessant flow of contradictory studies released daily confuses consumers. The first premise is true of almost everything we ingest, be it cough syrup, peanut butter, or Aspirin. While it is true that there are many contradictory studies, and consumers should always be aware of the products they are taking, it is also important that studies and research are constantly being undertaken. Every responsible person involved in the natural health industry works diligently to ensure natural products are safe and effective.

As the authority for natural health and wellness, Alive magazine always recommends readers seek guidance from their health care providers, but we are sadly aware that many MDs refuse to discuss natural products or simply dismiss them altogether—not a healthy situation.

Terry-Lynn Stone, Editor-in-Chief, Alive, Richmond, B.C.

THE ADVICE for good health and a long life is simple. Eat less. Eat well. Exercise. And before you take any supplements, have your blood work done and your DNA profiled to see what’s lacking. Only then can you determine what vitamins and minerals your body needs. Though convincing Canadian doctors to requisition these tests may be a challenge, without them you could be wasting many dollars taking the wrong nutrients. Makes infinite sense to me.

Hunter S. Grant, Rockport, Ont.

SO, OVERDOSING on vitamins tenfold is bad for you. Whodathunkit? Next you’re going

‘I loved that you celebrated Chloe Marshall. I applaud your phrase “realistic proportions.

to report on taxpayer-funded research that says falling down five stairs is hazardous to your health, but falling down 50 is worse. Who knows? Current research may reveal that life causes death.

Fraser Petrick, Kingston, Ont.

LEADERS LEAD

ANDREW COYNE’S EXCELLENT analysis and occasional brilliance was overcome in his article concerning Tory principles, especially as they applied to the recent decision to block the sale of MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates’ space division to an American firm (“The space where Tory principles used to be,” Opinion,

April 28). Andrew has not personally had the responsibility of managing a government or large business enterprise.

Leaders set strategies and policies, but then have to manage them through compromise and changing circumstances to implement their vision. Stephen Harper is making a marked difference-a change of direction! More has been accomplished in the past two years than in the previous 10 in sound economic policies, sovereignty, pride in our refitted armed forces, lower taxes for every Canadian and showing international leadership for Canada among others.

Fed Rogers, Toronto

WHO’S RIGHT ABOUT RIGHTS?

I WAS VERY INTERESTED in Charlie Gillis’s article on the man behind the mechanics of various human rights tribunals in Canada that erode the right to free speech and are crushing people by forcing them to defend themselves against futile accusations (“Righteous crusader or civil rights menace?” National, April 2l). By his crusading spirit, his self-righteousness and his narrow mindset, Richard Warman would probably have risen to the highest ranks of the Inquisition in Spain or Italy three centuries ago. Despite his law degree, he seems to have never meditated on Cicero’s maxim summum jus, summa iniuria—excess of law results in excess of injustice.

Christian Vandendorpe, Kingston, Ont.

THANK YOU for a balanced exposé of the crusading Richard Warman. His activities should be a warning to those who naively believe that human rights legislation should take an active role in moulding society to be “better” or more “civil.” It seems that a sense of selfrighteousness and a belief in one’s own moral

superiority on the part of individuals like him and bodies such as the human rights commissions have laid a dangerous precedent for censorship of dissenting, bizarre, or (dare I say it) non-politically correct views.

Arnav Manchanda, Ottawa

THE MISSION IN HAITI

MICHAEL PETROU’S ARTICLE offers a rare glimpse of the human suffering at the heart of Haiti’s dysfunctional justice system (“Haiti: are we helping? National, April 14). Despite its monumental shortcomings and the difficulties inherent in seeing them reversed, improvements are being made with Canadian support, specifically for women and girls who are victims of sexual violence. Rights & Democracy, with funding from CIDA, has been training women’s rights groups such as Kay Fanm (meaning “House of Women” in Creole) in lobbying techniques aimed at securing government action against rape, which is a pervasive problem in Haiti. Thanks to Kay Fanm’s efforts, the prosecutor’s office in Port-au-Prince created a special unit to deal with cases of sexual violence and has asked

women’s rights organizations to contribute to the unit’s set-up. Such government/civil society collaborations, where the Haitian government works with its citizens on concrete measures to improve the justice system, are now resulting in more women bringing their cases to court instead of suffering in silence. As Patrick Paquette, the police constable from Durham, Ont., said in the article, “If everyone makes a small difference, it adds up.” With the Canadian government’s help, Haitians themselves will make these small differences add up.

Nicholas Galletti, Americas Regional Officer, Rights & Democracy, Montreal

CURVACEOUS CHLOE

WELL DONE, Maclea?ïs; I loved that you celebrated English beauty queen Chloe Marshall (“The ‘ambassador of curves,’ ” Newsmakers, April 12), even though she is not stick thin. I also applaud the phrase “realistic proportions.” The word obesity is not only overused, it is carelessly used. All of the people who eat too much and exercise too little don’t become obese, while many full-figured people eat sparingly and exercise hard, without changing their shapes. Wouldn’t it be nice to see a beauty pageant where the only prerequisite for contestants of any shape was to run up a long staircase, to see who was out of breath at the top?

Alan A. Ross, Calgary

IN PASSING

Aimé Cesairé, 94, poet. Born in Martinique, he was one of the earliest proponents of black pride, and became one of the Caribbean’s most celebrated writers. He fostered the concept of “négritude,” encouraging blacks to be proud of their heritage. Discourse on Colonialism appeared in 1950 and is considered a classic in French political literature.

Edward Lorenz, 90, meteorologist. Schooled in mathematics, he was the father of the so-called butterfly effect, demonstrating how small actions can lead to major ones. His work in discovering “deterministic chaos” deeply influenced basic science and revolutionized how mankind perceives nature.