Guardian Publishes Article On Vitamin Pills Written By Vitamin Pill Salesman

April 7, 2014 at 12:00 am (Media, Nutritionism, Supplements) (, , , )

The note at the bottom of this Guardian article ‘the science behind dietary supplements’ states that the website mentioned in the article is “an independent encyclopedia on supplementation and nutrition. It does not accept advertising.” However, nowhere in the article does it mention any other website that the author is involved with. Well, I found one that looked pretty interesting.

Spencer Nadolsky is listed on LinkedIn as owner / physician at Leaner Living – (Karl Nadolsky is down as being a co-founder of Leaner Living on his LinkedIn profile, and his name and face are at the top of pages on the site). Leaner Living has a supplement store. You can buy vitamin K & vitamin D pills from the site. Is this relevant to the Guardian article authored by Spencer Nadolsky? Well…

Instead of taking one pill that can’t possibly fit every person’s daily requirements, we recommend supplementing specific deficiencies or needs. If you’re worried about a particular health problem, search for the common vitamin weakness, and look at your diet. Common deficiencies include vitamins D, K, and minerals such as magnesium. For instance, if you don’t eat many vegetables, there’s a high likelihood you could use some more vitamin K.


For those with genuine deficiency, vitamin D supplementation has truly beneficial effects. If your vitamin D levels are in check, you won’t notice much difference. A blood test will show your vitamin D levels, and from there you can make an informed decision. If you are not due for a checkup any time soon, take 2,000 IU per day. This has been shown to be both a safe and effective dose.

So, yes, I think it might be relevant.

Instead of recommending that people who don’t eat many vegetables try eating more, the author says “you could use some more vitamin K”. And vitamin D at 2000iu (the same dosage as in the pills sold at the link above) is recommended before having a blood test to see if levels are low. Pills now, test to see if you need them later…

Oh dear. I think I might drop the Guardian an email.


  1. Sol Orwell said,

    Hi I’m from

    Our vitamin D/K pages are also vetted by four other individuals: We have *no* link to *any* supplement company.

    You can also see all the actual evidence (links straight to primary literature) on our vitamin D and K pages.

  2. jdc325 said,

    Hi Sol.

    Can you clarify what you mean when you say Examine have no link to any supplement company? Is Spencer Nadolsky no longer at Leaner Living?

  3. Sol Orwell said,

    Correct, Spencer Nadolsky is no longer affiliated with Leaner Living.

    And as I said, beyond Spencer, four other individuals have vetted the relevant pages (vitamin D and vitamin K).

    Lastly, all of our updates are stored in a revision database (ala wikipedia). You can go back and see *every single* revision on those two pages, AND who did them (alongwith timestamps). will also have those pages indexed.

  4. jdc325 said,

    So, just to be clear: Spencer Nadolsky is not currently “Owner / Physician” at Leaner Living, as is stated on his LinkedIn profile? When did he leave? Does his brother Karl, co-founder, still have a role as “Physician” there?

  5. Sol Orwell said,

    Correct – he is not the owner/co-owner/etc.

    His linkedin is out of date, I’m sure you know someone who else this is true for.

    Also, like I said – we have 5 researchers. Dr. Spencer is one of them. Four others have vetted the vitamin D and K pages.

    Our data is there. Ad hominem does not help anyone. Critique our data/conclusions.

  6. jdc325 said,

    If you prefer to discuss data and conclusions than links to pill companies, that’s fine with me. Your conclusions are fascinating in themselves.

    Can you tell me how your five researchers decided that the answer to a diet low in vegetables was to get more vitamin K? Which researcher wrote that bit? What were the comments of the other four?

    Why did you conclude that people should take 2000iu of vitamin D before they had a test to check their levels? Who wrote that? What did the other four researchers make of it?

  7. Sol Orwell said,

    Our HEM links to the various benefits of vitamin K. We know that it is above RDI and hard to get via diet (unless you’re consuming crushed kale or natto). Thus the suggestion of supplementation.

    As for vitamin D – we’re pragmatic. 2000 IU is safe, non-toxic, and a lot of people are deficient. *Ideally* people should check their vit D levels.

    At no point do we say you *have* to. If you read the rest of our site (instead of reacting to our little piece on The Guardian), you’ll know that we always recommend looking at your diet, finding where you are deficient in, ideally solving with proper diet, and if not possible, then supplement. Listen to any podcast and we say the exact same. I myself only supplement with vitamin D, creatine, and turmeric/cissus (I take the latter two as I have congenitlal laxity which includes having both of my ACLs torn and torn rotator cuff, and my girlfriend loves making shakes with kale in them).

    I’m sure you know the difference between statistical significance and clinical significance. There is also something to be said for pragmatism – ask anyone with a degree in Public Health.

  8. jdc325 said,

    That’s very interesting Sol, but you don’t appear to have answered the questions I asked.

    If you’d prefer, I could ask a different question?

    How about: what do you think the difference between statistical significance and clinical significance is and why do you think this might support what you are posting here?

    Or how about this: if you don’t know what the optimal level of vitamin K is (and your website states “The ‘optimal’ intake of vitamin K is not currently known”), then how do you know you can’t obtain it from eating more vegetables? Why didn’t the Guardian article recommend introducing kale into the diet?

    For that matter, why didn’t it make any reference to obtaining vitamin D from healthy exposure to the sun? Or eating foods rich in vitamin D? You say you always refer people to dietary intake but there doesn’t seem to be mention of this in the Guardian piece.

    Nor do you recommend eating oily fish. You want people to take fish oil and algal oil: “While more experiments are needed, there are plenty of reasons to take fish oil. Research suggests that it helps with brain development and also mental illnesses. Given its safety, price, and potential benefits, the odds are that this is a product worth taking. Algae oil is a good vegetarian alternative.”

  9. Sol Orwell said,

    We were brief. You can listen to any interview/podcast we’ve done, and we say those exact same things – I talk about how I drink blended kale, how I love salmon (I’m about to have some right now), and so forth.

    Your issue really seems about the brevity/lack of nuance, and I agree with you on that. Our next one will be more nuanced.

    But to call us hacks? Or that we promote “bad science” … that’s a bit much. Just look at how people don’t even realize that a DO in the US is a regulated medical doctor.

  10. jdc325 said,

    Yes, you were brief. But I found it interesting what made the cut and what didn’t. 2000iu of vitamin D made the cut, as did ‘get more vitamin K’. Diet didn’t. I think it’s the emphasis as much as the brevity and lack of nuance that I have a problem with.

    One reason I picked up on the links to the supplements industry was the emphasis on the independence of Examine and their refusal to accept advertising.

    Emphasis matters.

  11. Carl said,

    Pointing out a financial interest is an ad hominem?

  12. Carl said,

    Though I do have to point out that supplementing only to address specific deficiencies is an appropriate approach.

  13. Carl said,

    the way, the science on glucosamine is actually not so good, so maybe on that subject you should be happy to talk about other aspects.

  14. Bruce Stephens said,

    I thought the evidence for (clinically significant) beneficial effects of fish oil tablets (for just about anything) was really poor? Has there been any significant new research?

  15. Chris Preston said,

    A recent meta-analysis of glucosamine


    “Compared with placebo, glucosamine, chondroitin, and their combination do not reduce joint pain or have an impact on narrowing of joint space. Health authorities and health insurers should not cover the costs of these preparations, and new prescriptions to patients who have not received treatment should be discouraged.”

    What did Spencer Nadolsky say:

    “You will need glucosamine sulphate, as glucosamine hydrochloride has been shown to be less effective. Also, make sure your dosage is enough. For any benefit, you must take at least 1,500mg daily.”

    One of these statements must be wrong.

  16. Sol Orwell said,

    First off, we’re not big fans of glucosamine ourselves. Just look at our page on it:

    Secondly, you can’t claim cherrypicking when you only link to one meta. There are multiple metas done on glucosamine and osteoarthiritis:

    We even have the meta you linked to: “A network meta-analysis on glucosamine sulfate found statistically significant pain relief, but deemed that the clinical significance of this pain relief was minimal.”

  17. jdc325 said,

    So you’re not big fans of Glucosamine supplements but you promote them in articles you submit to national newspapers? OK.

  18. mythbuster said,

    Hang J20. Pharmaceutical companies produce spurious articles all the time in the media masquerading as ‘advice’.

    This thread follows the bullshit double standards of the rest of this blog so well done on consistency.

    Swine flu pandemics – need we say more?

  19. jdc325 said,

    That’s fascinating mythbuster. Can you provide links to some of these many spurious articles produced by pharmaceutical companies?

    If you do actually have examples of pharma companies writing newspaper articles then I would be genuinely interested in seeing them.

  20. mythbuster said,

    Your front and pseudo scientific inquiry is only surpassed by your obvious inability to look for yourself. Are you really that thick and incapable?

    Sometimes it is easier to just accept you aint ever going to get it J20, what you require in assistance is beyond mortal help.

    The whole swine flu, avian flu, SARS debacle covers just about all you are asking evidence for!

    Are you a Christian scientist – come on out with it

  21. flash131 said,

    Jdc325 said:

    “Correct – he is not the owner/co-owner/etc.”

    “His linkedin is out of date.”

    Not updating his LinkedIn entry is one thing. Not notifying the state of Nevada, where his company is registered is another. He is still an active principle of Leaner Living LLC until he notifies the state of Nevada otherwise. It is therefore not true to say that he is no longer associated with the company. He was actively promoting the company less than six months ago (and is still to be found doing so on YouTube) and was listed as an active principle in the company filing in January this year which has not been updated since. So legally he has not resigned from the company.

    It also seems difficult to claim no association when your brother is co-principle and your wife works for the company.

    I am not implying that his conclusions are biased. I do not have the medical background to make a judgement. But it is unethical, when writing an article for a lay audience which implies that the accepted scientific view is that we would all benefit from supplements, not to divulge that he was and is a founder and active principle of a company that promotes and sells supplements.

  22. jdc325 said,

    @mythbuster, I’ll take that as a “no” then. You can’t link to these articles that you claim have been written by Big Pharma. Instead of admitting this, you put the blame on me for not finding something that you have claimed exists. Your claim, you provide the evidence. It’s unreasonable to expect other people to back up the claims you make.

  23. jdc325 said,

    flash131 – brilliant! Thank you!

  24. mythbuster said,

    Well I suppose it must be hard, if you were brought up believing in germ theory and stories about milk maids and pus it’s gonna be hard to move on J20.

    Try starting with Noddy

  25. mythbuster said,

    wikipants sold out a long time ago, are you serious

  26. herr doktor bimler said,

    Out of curiosity — is Mythbuster / spiniker commenting from an Essex IP?

  27. Chris Preston said,

    herr doktor bimler, I would lay money on them doing so. They also must have a substantial number of e-mail addresses to use.

  28. herr doktor bimler said,

    A sockpuppet can make up new e-addresses on the drop of a hat and get a new gravatar symbol each time. WordPress doesn’t check them for validity. Entering the same one each time is just a gesture of good faith, so do not expect it from the Hope Osteopathy Clinic.

  29. ebookbody said,

    I do not know if it’s just me or if perhaps everybody else experiencing problems with your
    blog. It appears like some of the text within your content are running off
    the screen. Can somebody else please provide feedback and
    let me know if this is happening to them as well?

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    Thank you

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