OLD HORIZON OLD HORIZON:Vitamin programme was unbalanced

Most journalists like to play it safe when it comes to reporting science and medicine. It’s a human enough reaction – they don’t want to appear stupid if they get it wrong when they stick their necks out. Depressingly, this means the status quo is rarely if ever challenged.
This was amply demonstrated last week by BBC journalists on the prestigious Horizon programme, which raised serious doubts about the use of vitamins to maintain health.
The programme looked at just three vitamin groups: vitamins A (retinal and beta-carotene), C and E. It produced a fair deal of old evidence that pointed out, among other things, that smokers are more likely to get lung cancer, despite taking vitamin A, and that vitamin C can only help reduce the symptoms once you’ve got a cold.
This would hardly seem damning, but the use of sinister music and images made it seem as though vitamin bottles contained weapons of mass destruction (aah, so that’s where they’re hidden).
Instead, the journalists peddled the old line that everyone can get all the nutrients they need from a balanced diet, forgetting to point out that depleted soil has eroded the goodness of our food.
Still, it prepares a nation for the day next year when many high-dose vitamins suddenly disappear from the shops, courtesy of an EU clamp-down.
One nice thing about the BBC is that if at least 10 people complain about any programme, the corporation has to launch an inquiry, so let your fingers do the talking. If you feel the programme was unbalanced or against the public interest, you can make a complaint via: http://www.bbc.co.uk/info/contactus/serious_form.shtml. Written complaints can also be sent to: Head of Programme Complaints, BBC Broadcasting House, London W1A 1AA. You’ll be asked to give full details about the programme, which are: BBC2, The Truth About Vitamins, 16 September, 9pm.

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Written by What Doctors Don't Tell You

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