Centrum – the “not so” clear choice
By Win Noren,
We are all familiar with the clichés about statistics. One of my favorites is attributed to Mark Twain: “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” It is very common for students of college statistics classes to claim that they hate the class. In fact in my undergraduate studies it was the one class that I refused to tutor. Of course in a classic twist of life, I then went on to receive a master’s degree in statistics only two years later.
Statistics (or its more popular current phrase “data analysis”) are all around us. A day does not go by when we are not bombarded by facts and figures that people and companies use to prove their point whether that be enticing us to purchase a product, vote for a candidate, agree with a position, or be a fan of a particular team.
When I taught undergraduate business statistics classes one of the goals I had for my students was that they would leave my class with an appreciation for the power of data analysis and would be more apt to question what was going on “behind the numbers” rather than just accept as “fact” whatever number was quoted in an article or advertisement.
Here is a recent example where you benefit from knowing the truth behind the numbers.
Centrum Silver is promoting as “big news” the fact that “Centrum Silver was part of the recently published landmark study evaluating the long-term benefits of multivitamins.” The study was the Physicians Health Study II. Of course the implied message is that all of us should also take Centrum Silver (well, all of us over the age of 50) since it was the vitamin of choice for the Physicians Health Study.
Started in 1997 the Physicians Health Study II was designed to study the impact of vitamin E, vitamin C, and multivitamins on the prevention of cardiovascular disease, cancer, age-related eye disease, and cognitive decline. . The multivitamin component concluded in June 2011. The conclusion of this study was published in various peer-reviewed journals and the conclusion is that while there was a statistically significant although modest reduction in cancer there was no reduction in the rate of cardiovascular disease such as heart attacks, stroke or death.
So should you take a daily multivitamin? You need to decide for yourself if the scientifically proven benefits are worth the cost, but that decision should be based on more than the Centrum Silver ad touting their use in the Physicians Health Study.