Do vitamins block disease? Some disappointing news

Updated 17 December 2013
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Do vitamins block disease? Some disappointing news

There’s more disappointing news about multivitamins: Two major studies found popping the pills did not protect aging men’s brains or help heart attack survivors.
Millions of people spend billions of dollars on vitamin combinations, presumably to boost their health and fill gaps in their diets. But while people who don’t eat enough of certain nutrients may be urged to get them in pill form, the government doesn’t recommend routine vitamin supplementation as a way to prevent chronic diseases.
The studies released Monday are the latest to test if multivitamins might go that extra step and concluded they don’t.
“Evidence is sufficient to advise against routine supplementation,” said a sharply worded editorial that accompanied Monday’s findings in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.
After all, most people who buy multivitamins and other supplements are generally healthy, said journal deputy editor Dr. Cynthia Mulrow. Even junk foods often are fortified with vitamins, while the main nutrition problem in the US is too much fat and calories, she added.
But other researchers say the jury’s still out, especially for the most commonly used dietary supplement — multivitamins that are taken by about a third of US adults, and even more people over the age of 50. Indeed, the US Preventive Services Task Force is deliberating whether vitamin supplements make any difference in the average person’s risk of heart disease or cancer. In a draft proposal last month, the government advisory group said for standard multivitamins and certain other nutrients, there’s not enough evidence to tell. (It did caution that two single supplements, beta-carotene and vitamin E, didn’t work). A final decision is expected next year.
“For better or for worse, supplementation’s not going to go away,” said Dr. Howard Sesso of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. He helps leads a large multivitamin study that has had mixed results — suggesting small benefits for some health conditions but not others — and says more research is needed, especially among the less healthy.
Still, “there’s no substitute for preaching a healthy diet and good behaviors” such as exercise, Sesso cautioned.
As scientists debate, here are some questions and answers to consider in the vitamin aisle:
Why the new focus on multivitamins?
Multivitamins have grown more popular in recent years as research showed that taking high doses of single supplements could be risky, such as beta-carotene.
Multivitamins typically contain no more than 100 percent of the daily recommended amount of various nutrients. They’re marketed as sort of a safety net for nutrition gaps; the industry’s Council for Responsible Nutrition says they’re taken largely for general wellness.
What are the latest findings?
With Alzheimer’s on the rise as the population ages, Harvard researchers wondered if long-term multivitamin use might help keep older brains agile. They examined a subset of nearly 6,000 male doctors, age 65 or older, who were part of a larger study. The men were given either multivitamins or dummy pills, without knowing which they were taking.
After a decade of pill use, the vitamin-takers fared no better on memory or other cognitive tests, Sesso’s team reported Monday in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.
Did that Harvard study find any other benefit from multivitamins?
The results of the Physicians Health Study II have been mixed. Overall it enrolled about 15,000 health male doctors age 50 and older, and the vitamin-takers had a slightly lower risk of cancer — 8 percent. Diet and exercise are more protective. They also had a similarly lower risk of developing cataracts, common to aging eyes. But the vitamins had no effect the risk for heart disease or another eye condition, Sesso said.
Might vitamins have a different effect on people who already have heart disease?
As part of a broader treatment study, a separate research team asked that question. They examined 1,700 heart attack survivors, mostly men, who were given either a special multivitamin containing higher-than-usual doses of 28 ingredients or dummy pills. But the vitamins didn’t reduce the chances of another heart attack, other cardiovascular problems, or death.
What about women?
Research involving postmenopausal women a few years ago also concluded multivitamins did not prevent cancer or heart disease. But it was not nearly as rigorous a study as Monday’s research, relying on women to recall what vitamins they used.
What’s the safety advice for multivitamin users?
The preventive services task force cited no safety issues with standard multivitamins. But specialists say to always tell your doctor what over-the-counter supplements you use. Some vitamins interact with some medications, and Sesso said anyone worried about nutrition should be discussing their diet with their doctor anyway.


King Abdul Aziz City for Science and Technology unveils self-guided Black Shark boat at 38th GITEX Technology Week

The development of the Black Shark smart boat is part of a KACST initiative to localize and transform transport technology and logistics, to help achieve the aims of Vision 2030. (SPA)
Updated 20 October 2018
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King Abdul Aziz City for Science and Technology unveils self-guided Black Shark boat at 38th GITEX Technology Week

  • These trucks are equipped with electronic pairing technologies, which effectively improve the shipping and distributing of goods, reduce human error

JEDDAH: King Abdul Aziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) has unveiled its Black Shark self-guided boat at the 38th GITEX Technology Week in Dubai. The vessel, which can carry out coastal surveillance and many other tasks, was developed in collaboration with Taqnia for Robotics and Smart Systems.
The development of the craft is part of a KACST initiative to localize and transform transport technology and logistics, to help achieve the aims of Vision of 2030.
The boat includes sensor systems that allow it to monitor and create a 3D map of a 200-meter area surrounding the boat, and automated control technology that gives it the ability to navigate independently and avoid collisions without human input. It can also be equipped with a flexible range of weapons, acting as a firearms platform that uses gyroscopic self-balancing technology. It has the ability to survey beaches at a range of 15 kilometers, in addition to accurately identifying its precise location with a margin of error of less than 20 centimeters using differential GPS, as well as specifying, monitoring and tracking targets.
The Black Shark also has long-range radar that covers up to 150 kilometers, and a telecommunication system to track its location, monitor its status and connect to multiple domains through command centers that allow wireless communication and remote control. It is fitted with a digital camera powered by electro-optic and infrared technology that can produce HD-quality video, and also has night vision capability.
As part of its initiative to develop transport technology and logistics, KACST has also worked on automated control technology, included self-driving heavy-duty trucks, with the University of California, Berkeley. These trucks are equipped with electronic pairing technologies, which effectively improve the shipping and distributing of goods, reduce human error, preserve resources, and reduce harmful emissions and fuel consumption.
The same technology can also, for example, transform a four-wheel-drive vehicle into a remote-controlled vehicle equipped with video cameras, infrared technology, a microphone and a control device wirelessly connected to a command center, where an operator can guide it using images from the video cameras.