An Integrative Approach to Practicing Medicine
Being a physician, I find myself being bombarded with new information regarding health and disease management on a daily basis. Especially now with the Internet, Twitter, Facebook, blogs, etc. it is difficult to know how to filter though all of it and what articles to believe.
Google any topic (for example the health benefits of let’s say…coffee) and you will find hundreds of articles written brilliantly that support the idea that coffee is the greatest thing in the world and will heal anything from dermatitis to high blood pressure. However, on the same Google results page you will find equal amounts of information out there bashing coffee for all of its negative health effects and articles stating that it’s the worst thing for your body since fried food and cigarettes.
That got me thinking. How do you know what to believe? How can you become an objective consumer of information in today’s world? How can someone look past the “shocking headline” to see the truth behind the article? Simple. By asking questions.
Some good questions that I ask when reading any article in regards to a rather boisterous health claim are as follows.
What is the motivation for the article and who funded the research for the study? Is it possible for a study to be objective when it is funded by people who will profit greatly from the results if they are skewed in a certain way? Who will benefit from the results of this study? How can someone with a significant stake in the results of a test be the ones that are conducting it? Are the health claims backed by medical research and do they take different medical perspectives into consideration?
I read an article this past weekend and it really forced me to stop and take a deep breath. I had to step back, read the “fine print” so to speak about the article, and I found that by asking simple questions, the truth revealed itself in a very obvious way.
As you all know, I am a huge proponent of taking a high quality, naturally derived multivitamin for a number of reasons. Three physicians recently published an editorial in the Annals of Internal medicine this past week that is making “BIG” news. They claim that Vitamins, and in particular Multivitamins are a waste of money. (see article here – http://annals.org/article.aspx?articleid=1789253).
Knowing what I know about the benefits of multivitamins I was taken back by this article and I felt it appropriate to share it with all of you. I started to question the motivation for the study and why claims of this nature would be made. They make comments on 3 articles that “vitamins should not be used for chronic disease prevention” and say that “Enough is enough.” Yet when you break down the studies you find that they do not mention what brand of supplement they used, or if they used the same brand of supplement for all of the study participants and whether or not they were synthetic (made in a lab) or from natural sources (such as plant extracts). They also do not use any studies in their evaluation from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (http://ajcn.nutrition.org/) or from the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine (http://www.liebertpub.com/acm), two non-pharmaceutical sponsored journals that have shown evidence of benefit.
The keys to remember are that all supplements are not created equal (see my blog at http://www.graybill.org/to-supplement-or-not-to-supplement) and that consumers must be aware of what they are taking. To come out with a blanket statement that all multivitamins are bad in the light of so many harmful effects from synthetic drugs is absurd and hopefully forces you to look deeper into this study.
See the health rangers take on this as well, I think this is a great article that brings up some good points to consider. (http://www.naturalnews.com/043254_mainstream_media_multivitamins_quack_science.html
I believe that a great, high quality, naturally derived multivitamin is extremely beneficial for the human body and I will continue to encourage my patients, friends and family to take one on a daily basis.
So, I guess my hope with this post is that I can continue to encourage my patients to become objective “health care consumers” and begin to look further into headline making health claims. I hope that you all continue to pay attention to what goes into your body. Use common sense, read labels, ask questions, find out where your vitamins and food come from. Continue to be curious, trust your intuition, and make “health” a priority in your life.
Hope you are all enjoying the holidays. Tis the season to be healthy!!