dietary supplements

By Dale Petersen MD –

 Studies have repeatedly shown that people tend to believe the first thing they hear or read about a subject even when informed that the information was false.  Unfortunately, this is true of physicians and publication of medical research.  

I was reminded of this phenomenon recently when an individual who has sought my advice over the years was found to have lung cancer. When she opted to pursue conventional treatment with chemotherapy and radiation she was told to avoid all nutritional supplements because they would interfere with the effectiveness of her medical treatment.

The recommendation to withhold nutritional supplementation cannot be supported on any objective evidence. The widely held belief originated from a single faulty medical study published in 2006 (Bairati I, Meyer F, Jobin E, et al. Antioxidant vitamins supplementation and mortality: a randomized trial in head and neck cancer patients. Int J Cancer 2006;119(9):2221-2224. The study’s authors concluded that while patients taking antioxidant supplements had fewer serious adverse effects from chemotherapy they were more likely to have a recurrence of their cancer and die more quickly than those not taking antioxidants.

The authors published a follow-up article in 2008 in which they reported that the patients who had died from recurrent cancer were those who had continued to smoke. (Meyer F, Bairati I, Fortin A, et al. Interaction between antioxidant vitamin supplementation and cigarette smoking during radiation therapy in relation to long-term effects on recurrence and mortality: a randomized trial among head and neck cancer patients. Int J Cancer 2008;122(7):1679-1683.) The risk of cancer recurrence and earlier death was not due to supplementation with antioxidant nutrients but to continued tobacco use!

Unfortunately, the clarification came too late to benefit future cancer patients. The initial faulty conclusion continues to be considered factual by U.S. physicians. Most people entering a course of cancer chemotherapy are warned to avoid all nutritional supplements, not just the antioxidants brought into question in the original study.

What about the scientific facts and observed experience? Scientific studies have overwhelmingly found that people who take nutritional supplements, including antioxidants, during conventional cancer treatment experience fewer adverse effects, have a higher quality of life, and generally have a better outcome than those who do not.  I believe this explains why the Cancer Treatment Centers of America, which routinely include nutritional support in their treatment regimens, have dramatically higher success rates than other cancer treatment centers.

If you or someone you care about is found to have cancer encourage them to look at the facts regarding nutritional supplementation and chemotherapy.  Don’t lessen the chance of recovery by blindly accepting the false premise that supporting the body’s ability to weather the effects of chemotherapeutic drugs will lessen their effectiveness.

Dale Petersen MD

By Dale Peterson, MD- Building Health

Dr. Dale Peterson is a graduate of the University of Minnesota College of Medicine. He completed his residency in FamilyMedicine at the University of Oklahoma. He is a past president of the Oklahoma Academy of  Family Physicians. He had a full-time family practice in Edmond, Oklahoma, for over 20 years and was a Chief of Staff of the Edmond Hospital. He was active in teachingfor many years as a Clinical Professor of Family Medicine through the Oklahoma University Health Sciences Center.

Dr. Peterson left his full-time family practice in 1999 to consult with individuals who are seeking ways to restore and maintain their health through improved nutrition and other lifestyle changes. He founded the Wellness Clubs of America to give people access to credible information on supporting and maintaining their health.  His monthly wellness letter, Health by Design, and his Health by Design E-Newsletter provide helpful information to individuals interested in preventing and conquering health challenges.  He is the author of Building Health by Design:  Adding Life to Your Years and Years to Your Life .

Dr. Peterson speaks regularly on subjects related to health and nutrition. He hosted a weekly radio program,Your Health Matters, on KTOK in Oklahoma City for five years. For the past nine years he has addressed questions from across the nation on his Your Health Matters weekly teleconference.He offers a free video LifeXtension course at

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