You may wonder why I write mainly about the negative aspects of alternative medicine – to show that something does not work?
The most striking difference between, let’s call it, official medicine and less official medicine is the ratio of true to false information. If we read about something in a medical textbook or hear it in a lecture at university, we can assume with a very high probability that it is true. Sometimes embellished, sometimes a little twisted, sometimes one of many – but the truth. Rarely does it happen that something recognized by modern medicine is simply not true.
Of course, you can’t say that about claims like “vitamin C doesn’t cure cancer,” because such a thing has nothing to do with science. Science recognizes that something works or doesn’t work only after it has been meticulously tested. “It doesn’t cure” can usually be read on blogs of people who know about medicine and often about science in general as much as they read on google that day.
If we hear, for example, that chemotherapy cures certain cancers with a certain probability, then that is usually the case. The results may be a tad tweaked, but usually the errors are within reason. One might even say that chemotherapy is the best known drug for certain cancers. But it’s wrong to say that nothing else works – until those “other” things have been meticulously studied.
In contrast, the main problem in what is commonly called “alternative” medicine is lying. I’ll bet you any money that over 95% of the things advertised by various quacks on the Internet simply don’t work. Of course, among all these alternatives, there must be some extremely effective therapies, because nobody in their right mind believes that medicine has already discovered all the most effective treatments and nobody will ever find anything better. Yes, there are things better than the official ones, including among the current alternative methods, but they haven’t been tested yet, so we don’t know which ones.
We have hundreds of charlatans on the internet recommending something that they happen to be selling. If someone is selling vitamin C, they will tell people that it is a cure for almost every disease that afflicts humanity. Antibiotic dealers claim that every second chronically ill person actually has Lyme disease and only spending tens of thousands on a special treatment can help. There is even some guy who sees parasites in every second child and he also happens to be the only specialist who can cure parasitic infections, of course this costs several hundred times more than treatment at a regular doctor.
We are lied to at every turn. In this flood of cesspools there are, of course, extremely effective therapies, but they are lost in the flood of misinformation. I try to find such gems and describe them, but as I have written before, I have no power. I don’t make any money on selling any specifics, I don’t run a practice. A charlatan will write that what he sells cures, let’s say, multiple sclerosis, he will spend $20 000 on advertising on the Internet and will earn $50 000 on sales. For $20,000 you can hire a lot of people, who will write invented stories about how they recovered from these miraculous supplements. I once described a therapy against multiple sclerosis that was pre-tested and gave excellent results and helped almost every person on my forum who used it. You probably haven’t heard of it because I don’t have the $20,000 on hand to spend it and then not make a dime. Instead, you will be bombarded with offers to sell vitamin C, antibiotics, and whatever else the charlatans can’t think of to extract cash from seriously ill people. Below is a link to the therapy I described, or rather a set of therapies, you can use google translate:
After this somewhat lengthy introduction, we return to the main topic – the role of vitamin D3 in cancer prevention. I wrote about this many years ago, now there is a lot of new research and it is worth refreshing the topic. On blogs and youtube videos you will probably hear that it’s a miracle, the only cure for cancer (and not only), that you need to take kilograms of it, that supplementation will surely prevent the disease. I myself am a big fan of vitamin D3, at one time I developed a nightmarish deficiency and it cost me a lot of health. I think supplementation is one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life, perhaps even saving this life. But what about cancer? Statistically, one in two people reading these words will develop some kind of cancer, one in four will die from it. Any action that can reduce this risk is literally a matter of life and death.
There are three major problems with research evaluating the impact of supplements. The first – corruption. Supplements are serious competition for patentable drugs. If we find out that omega 3 is an effective treatment for depression or neurosis, the richest people on the planet would lose billions. When that kind of money is involved, it is childishly naive to count on honesty, and not once or twice has massive manipulation of results been demonstrated. I’m not saying that everything is rigged and no one can be believed, I’m just pointing out the powerful conflict of interest that can affect the results. Therefore, one or two studies should not be trusted. However, if dozens turn up, all with the same results, it will be paranoid in turn to suspect that all of them, every single one have been falsified. Vitamin D3 here will not compete with any drug (there is no such thing as anti-cancer vaccine), I also do not believe in an attempt to hide its properties to increase the overall percentage of sick people, so it is safe to assume that in this case the risk of falsification is quite low.
The second thing – the mechanism of the disease itself. Some cancers develop over a dozen years or even longer. Even if there was a substance that gave 100% protection against the development of a new disease, but did not eliminate the existing one – a one-year clinical trial will not show much. It will detect people who became ill before taking supplementation. It is safe to assume that only studies that lasted at least a few years should be included.
Finally, the third problem – too low a dosage will not lead to adequate blood concentrations. Here, however, it can be assumed that any reasonable dosage (above 1000 units) will increase it in at least some patients to optimal levels. Statistically, 1200 units raises the level by 32 nmol/L, which is already enough to throw a few tens of percent of patients into the limits of the optimum.
With all of the above in mind, you can try to look at what science has to say about this.
1180 female patients took part in the study, half of them receiving vitamin D3 and half a placebo. Discarding the results from the first two years, 18 women in the placebo group got sick, 8 in the group receiving vitamin D3. But as this group was almost twice as large, statistically supplementation reduced the risk by more than three times. A drawback of the study was the small number of participants – with so few people, the results may have been a matter of chance. The dose was 1000 IU, and the change in blood levels was from 72 to 96.
Twice lower risk of pancreatic cancer in people who had a high intake of vitamin D3 – a very poor quality study, despite a very large group. It looked at diet, which means that along with the vitamin, the subjects ate dozens of other things that are found in products containing it.
Another poor quality study – those with the highest blood levels of vitamin D3 had twice lower the risk of colon cancer. But again, this raises the question – weren’t the high levels simply a side effect of something else, like more exercise (i.e., being in the sun), or a diet rich in fish?
It’s time for some solid research:
2000 units per day for 5 years. 25871 subjects.
Excluding the first 2 years, 490 people in the supplement group developed cancer, 522 in the placebo group. 112 people taking the vitamins died, 149 getting the placebo. Vitamin D3 blood levels increased by 40%, from an average of 29.8 ng/ml to 41.8 ng/ml. We have a large group of patients, there can be no question of chance here.
Something is emerging that has been detected in other studies, but on too small a group of patients to see a clear correlation. The number of cancers detected did not change (such a difference is not statistically significant), but the mortality rate decreased. Patients were more likely to survive. Narrowing the group to the patients who were most thoroughly studied, discarding the first 2 years, those using vitamin D3 supplements had as much as a 39% lower risk of cancer death.
Another large group study – 200,000 IU of vitamin D3 to start, 100,000 every month. Compared to the placebo group, supplementers had blood levels 20 ng/ml higher. Cancers were detected in 165 patients taking the vitamin and in 163 getting the placebo.
There are several other smaller placebo-controlled studies, but the results differ little from those above.
Time to summarize.
Vitamin D3 seemed very promising – initial clinical trials showed significant reductions in disease risk, and there were interesting studies showing lower risk in people from countries with high sunshine.
Unfortunately, more serious studies on larger groups of patients did not give the desired results. Vitamin D3 had no effect on cancer risk, nor did it improve cardiovascular health.
It is very unlikely that studies with higher doses will produce different results – supplementation clearly raised blood levels, a very large group of patients jumped from deficiency to optimum, and if any effect was to occur – we would at least see a trend towards it.
It is possible that longer studies are needed, as cancers sometimes take a very long time to develop, but it should be noted that the first clinical trials that produced such promising results were also short-lived. If new studies are rejected for this reason, then the old ones must also be rejected.
Preliminary results suggest that taking vitamin D3 supplements admittedly does not prevent the onset of cancer, but it does reduce the risk that the disease will kill you. The exact reason for this is not known – whether it will be slowed disease progression or better response to chemotherapy.
It is also important to note that we currently have very few clinical trials – too few to be able to say “this vitamin doesn’t work”.