July 1, 2005: The Day CODEX Will Protect You From High-Dose Dietary Supplements
by Bill Sardi by Bill Sardi
Advances in dietary supplementation are about to take a giant step backwards. About 8 months from now the dreaded CODEX rules will go into force regarding dietary supplements. CODEX is a worldwide regulatory body. Out of ignorance, the vitamin supplement industry has completely caved in to the regulatory process, with one scientific officer for an organization that represents the vitamin supplement manufacturers saying the soon-to-be-implemented CODEX regulations are "broadly welcomed." The industry has been badgered into accepting the false notion that the world must be protected from the imagined side effects of high-dose vitamins and minerals. “We are sure Codex will go through in July, 2005 and will be similar to US law. The guidelines are not perfect, but this is an excellent document that has been a long-time in coming," says John Hathcock, scientific officer for the Council for Responsible Nutrition.
Instead of deciding upon a percentage of the outdated Recommended Dietary Allowance for the upper limit of supplemental nutrients, which vitamin supplement advocates feared, now the maximum levels will be determined by "scientific risk assessment." The problem is that the published science behind dietary supplements is often flawed, biased, outdated and in bad need of revision. For example, the upper limits previously proposed for vitamin C (2000 mg), vitamin D (2000 IU) and folic acid (1000 mcg), that CODEX will likely adopt, will set back recent advances in nutritional science that would otherwise significantly reduce morbidity and mortality among millions of people worldwide.
Universal limit on vitamin D
As early as 1989 health authorities questioned whether it was even possible to establish an upper limit on vitamin D intake. [J Nutrition 119:1825—8, 1989] There is simply no adequate way to establish a universal upper limit for vitamin D since people living in countries in northern latitudes produce no vitamin D in winter from sunlight exposure, as well as blacks who have immigrated to northern lands, require far more vitamin D than native Caucasians. A one-size-fits-all upper limit doesn’t work.
Dr. Michael Holick, an expert on vitamin D, says blacks make five to 10 times less vitamin D in their skin per minute of sun exposure than white people due to higher melanin pigmentation. Ten times more blacks are vitamin D-deficient than whites. Blacks should be protesting CODEX, but their own health leaders are confused themselves. Yet many of the major health risks for blacks, hypertension, colon, prostate and breast cancer, and immune problems, are directly related to a lack of vitamin D. [U.S. Pharmacist 10:66-72, 2004] Blacks may need 10,000 units of vitamin D per day, especially in northern climates in the winter, just to remain healthy. The maximum safe intake level for blacks should go far beyond that mark.
Furthermore, there is no practical risk of toxicity from vitamin D supplementation among healthy individuals. Toxicity doesn’t begin till 40,000 units are consumed daily for many months. So many American consumers already shun high-dose vitamin D supplementation (2000 IU) because their doctor, pharmacist, or an outdated textbook, mistakenly advises against it. To reveal how misled health authorities are about vitamin D, a person can stand in their swim trunks in the Arizona sun at noontime in the summer for one hour and produce 10,000 units of natural vitamin D, five times the proposed upper limit, and never experience any side effects. But high-dose vitamin D in pill form must assuredly be toxic, say the misguided experts. [Am J Clinical Nutrition 69: 842—56, 1999; Am J Clinical Nutrition;73:288—94, 2001; Nutrition Journal. 3:8, 2004]
No more expensive urine: high-dose vitamin C
Drs. Steve Hickey and Hilary Roberts from Manchester, England, authors of ASCORBATE: The Science of Vitamin C, have exposed the flaws in the government-sponsored science that fallaciously claims vitamin C supplementation beyond 200 milligrams per day is "worthless" and becomes nothing more than "expensive urine." The studies performed to establish the Recommended Dietary Allowance for vitamin C did not calculate for the half-life of vitamin C, which is about 30 minutes. So tests were performed 12 hours (or 24 half-lives) after consumption and the peak concentration in the blood circulation was measured. Of course, it was an experiment designed to mislead. Drs. Hickey and Roberts are now rushing to produce another book, the “Ridiculous Daily Allowance," which will further expose the reigning counterfeit science behind vitamin C supplementation.
Virtually all healthy adults who supplement their diet with 500 milligrams of vitamin C taken 5 times a day (2500 mg total) will achieve blood levels that can significantly reduce the risk of mortality and morbidity compared to adults with low vitamin C intake. If some minimal amount of vitamin C prevents overt scurvy, then what will the maximal level of intake be for vitamin C? Will the new maximum be enough to prevent cataracts, aneurysms, blood vessel disease, gall stones? All these are maladies that can be prevented through high-dose vitamin C supplementation. Smokers, pregnant females, people taking aspirin, steroids or estrogen replacement, diabetics, growing children, the allergic, people with recurrent viral infections, nursing home patients and sun-exposed individuals need more vitamin C. Will the new CODEX maxims consider these millions of people?
Mega-dose B vitamins
Just when researchers are finding high-dose folic acid, at least 1000-5000 micrograms, may prevent Alzheimer’s disease, birth defects, cancer, and replace prescription antidepressant drugs, CODEX may set a flawed upper limit that will inhibit consumers from purchasing high doses.
Is CODEX that bad?
Since CODEX doesn’t outlaw dietary supplements outright, it only establishes maxims on vitamins and minerals in one dose (a serving size), it doesn’t appear on the surface to be too onerous. "We’re not taking your vitamins away," say authorities for CODEX. But now vitamin D pills may be limited to maximum 2000 IU per pill, so a black person needing to consume 10,000 IU per day would need to take 5 of these pills, at greater expense, when one 10,000 IU pill could be made available at far less cost. Under CODEX, vitamin B6 may be limited to 10 milligrams per pill (Britain adopted this maximum for vitamin B6 recently). A German study indicates 300—400 milligrams of vitamin B6 may effectively prevent high blood pressure among diabetics. CODEX might require a consumer to take 30—40 pills instead of one mega-dose pill to obtain 300—400 milligrams of vitamin B6 needed to control blood pressure. It’s easy to see here the vitamin manufacturers might actually benefit from CODEX by selling more pills.
CODEX will likely mandate the maxims be printed on labels, which will further frighten consumers away from high-dose supplements. Consumers will have to be educated to ignore the labels.
CODEX maxims on vitamins and minerals are supposed to protect the public from side effects due to over-dosage. But without CODEX there have been no reported deaths and only a small number of adverse reactions reported to poison control centers in the USA in the past few years. [Am Journal Emergency Med 20: 391—452, 2002] Who is CODEX protecting?
CODEX has established a deadline of December 10, 2004 to provide scientific commentary and rebuttal to the proposed upper limits on vitamin supplements. Anticipate an all-out barrage of misinformation in the news media on the safety of high-dose dietary supplements between now and July 1, 2005 to soften up the public.
Just as this report was being written, news headlines carry another bogus report which falsely claims high-dose vitamin E (400 IU or more) may increase the risk of death by 5 percent. This false conclusion was made after analysis of 19 studies involving 136,000 people (to be published in the January 4, 2005 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine). The 5 percent figure is a relative increase, not a hard number (not a 5 out of 100 increase). High-dose vitamin E does not significantly increase, nor does it decrease, mortality rates. Furthermore, people with cardiovascular disease are more likely to be taking vitamin E supplements, which skews the statistics. A University of North Carolina study of 45,748 participants, aged 50 to 75 years, found that supplement use is higher among people who are battling chronic health conditions and the strongest association was for cardiovascular disease with supplemental vitamin E. [Am Journal Preventive Medicine 24:43—51, 2003]
Bill Sardi [send him mail] is a consumer advocate and health journalist, writing from San Dimas, California. He has written numerous health books including 2 used & new from $9.95. Have one to sell? You could win a $50 Amazon gift certificate or the Grand Prize. Start by adding five items to your Wish List. Learn more. The New Truth About Vitamins and Minerals (www.hereandnowbooks.com). His website is www.askbillsardi.com