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At least as likely as not: Wellness Paradigms

May 5, 2009

Wellness Paradigms

Clearly, as consumers, we need new programs and studies to protect our interests and access to natural products and supplements that we can apply as we see fit. The ODS has undertaken numerous studies in conjunction with the National Institutes of Health. Their budget has grown from $3.5 million in 1999 to $27 million in 2006. Some of that money has been spent on studies of the relationship between aging and supplementation. Human studies with phytoestrogens, vitamin D, and osteoarthritis of the knee; chromium and enhancement of insulin signaling; modulation of autoimmunity by green tea phenolics; brain neuron modulator effects of ginkolides and bilobalides; and the mechanism of prostatic cancer prevention by lycopene have had mixed results.

Superior medicinal foods have health benefits that are exceedingly broad, affecting every organ system. Recent studies have shown saw palmetto and glucosamine/chondroitin to be less effective in relieving prostatic and arthritic symptoms as original studies suggested. A personal trial of these supplements is now recommended. It would be a good idea to verify whether or not you, the individual, experience a relief of symptoms through supplementation with saw palmetto or glucosamine/chondroitin.

At Least as Likely as Not

Most people agree we need more substantial studies of all therapies, whether allopathic or CAM. Dr. Ted Gansler said the type of CAM used “is significantly influenced by gender, race, age, education, cancer type, and how far the cancer had spread.” Younger, more affluent and more educated members of the group tend to be adopters of the therapies. Women were more likely than men to use energy techniques such as Yoga and Tai Chi (10.1 vs. 1.9%) and manipulative practices such as massage (16.9 vs. 3.9%). The difference between genders was less apparent for non-spiritual mind-body methods such as hypnosis, meditation and aromatherapy (58.6 vs. 42.8%) (Gansler, 2008).

An example, is is found with the use of black cohosh for a menopausal symptom of anxiety is the only herbal that has “statistically significant results” shown in a CAM study. Numerous other herbs, oils, and supplements have implied “at least as likely as not” quality of life improvement anecdotal relief of the symptoms of menopause known as hot flashes. A large percentage of in vitro (within the glass) research and in vivo (within the living) research has been published on all sorts of CAM medicines and practices outside the United States. The quality of all research is under clinical suspicion, whether undertaken as proof of principle, retrospectively, or as a prospectively designed research paper. That is why all research must be designed and written so as to be reproducible.

Recently, the United States Institute of Medicine has determined a link between Agent Orange and hypertension, and has recommended that the VA cover hypertension as well as the current list of diseases caused by the toxin. When my father was applying for disability through the VA system, the legal phrase used as a “means test” by the government stated that his exposure to Agent Orange in Vietnam had to meet the standard of “at least as likely as not” in order to be considered the cause of his physical disability. This phrase appeals to me as a means of evaluating supplement studies.

Rather than casting aside all supplements for not providing statistically significant results, a more likely method of analysis could be that supplements are at least as likely as not the reason for improved health benefits.

More later.

Dr Geiger

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