(NaturalNews) The New York Times reported recently that American doctors regularly prescribe placebos to patients. The survey involved 679 randomly chosen internists and rheumatologists, among them about half reported recommending placebos regularly. Doctors in Denmark, Israel, Britain, Sweden and New Zealand responded similarly. The American doctors doled out headache pills, vitamins, antibiotics and sedatives most commonly. Though these placebos are not really inert, they are used primarily for their psychological effect. This may confer some benefit, so it is thought. The study is being published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ).
Ethically speaking, doctors deceiving patients with dummy pills is a little troubling, and not always harmless. Physicians are acting no differently than the "quacks" that they denigrate. Even worse, they dole out drugs with potentially dangerous side effects. Their drugs kill tens of thousands of people yearly, while vitamins harm virtually no one, and are often helpful. The doctor-patient relationship is supposed to be special, with high expectations about honesty and personal care. Yet, most of the time, it’s ten minutes and it's out the door with prescription in hand. It doesn’t matter what the scribble says, or what the health problem is, as long as we take our medicine gratefully. However, many people are not buying into the medical model anymore. In fact, to save money during the economic downturn, many patients are not renewing their prescriptions. Still, they would be wise to continue their vitamins.
Recent example of how vitamins beat placebos starts with a study on overweight women taking chromium picolinate. Compared to placebo, chromium supplements significantly reduced food cravings and hunger levels (Anton et al., 2008). Increased intake of vitamin K2 reduced the build up of calcium in arteries that leads to hardening of the blood vessels (Beulens, et al., 2008). L-Carnitine significantly reduced both physical and mental fatigue and increased cognitive function in older people (Malaguarnera M, et al., 2007). Zinc supplements activated the production of brain factor that wards off depression and keeps nerve cells alive (Sowa-Kućma M, et al., 2008). Women who received vitamin E supplements had a significant 21% reduction in blood clots (Glynn RJ, et al., 2008). Pantethine, an active form of vitamin B5, significantly reduced LDL (bad) cholesterol while increasing HDL (good) cholesterol in several clinical trials (Binaghi, et al. 1990; Coronel 1991, et al.; Pins & Keenan, 2006). Overwhelming evidence on the incredible benefits of vitamin D, omega-3 fats, probiotics, and other important supplements are being reported, even by the medical “experts”. So, rather than handing out placebos, physicians should be providing high quality multivitamins and mineral supplements, and teaching people about how to eat right to prevent illness. This is a much more intelligent and caring approach to patients than giving them placebos.
So, why do Americans buy into health care that has so little to offer? Why are we paying through the nose for medicine that ranks so low among nations? Despite enormous strides in food and vitamin science, the medical world is largely deaf to nutrition science. Profit-driven health care that preys on sickness is not where the best medicine can be found. Fortunately, efforts by the pharmaceutical industry to keep people ignorant of nutrition science are beginning to fail. People are seeking out naturopaths, nutritionists, or taking health into their own hands for many health concerns. Also, there are a few integrative physicians out there, who represent real health, if you’re lucky to find one. Unfortunately, these practitioners do not accept most insurance plans, as insurance companies are also behind the times and do not cover dietary supplements or newer diagnostic tests.
What The New York Times report really says is that, at least 50% of the time, doctors have no clue how to help us. So, why not give people something that really helps, like vitamins or minerals.
References Anton SD, et al. Diabetes Technology & Therapeutics 2008;10:405-12. Beulens JWJ, et al. Atherosclerosis 2008, Published online ahead of print. Binaghi P, et al. Minerva Med 1990;81:475-9. Coronel F, et al. Am J Nephrol 1991;11:32-6. Glynn RJ, et al., Circulation 2008, Published online ahead of print. Malaguarnera M, et al. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2007;86:1738-44. Pins JJ, Keenan JM. Prog Cardiovasc Nurs 2006;21:89-93. Sowa-Kućma M, et al. J Neural Transm 2008, Published online ahead of print.
About the author
Dr. Phil Domenico is a nutritional scientist and educator with a research background in biochemistry and microbiology. Formerly an infectious disease scientist, he now works as a consultant for supplement companies and the food industry.
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