Thursday, January 10, 2008

Can Antioxidants Kill You?

Studies have proven without a doubt that taking Vitamin E, Beta Carotene or Vitamin A supplements can have an adverse effect on your health. The warnings come from one of the largest studies ever conducted by a group of researchers, led by Goran Bjelakovic, MD, of the Copenhagen University Hospital in Denmark.

The study shows that these antioxidants do not contribute to the prevention of disease, and that they actually accelerate the progression of cardiovascular disease and cancer, increasing mortality.

The reasons for the harmful effects are not entirely clear. Study co-author, Christian Gluud, MD, of the Copenhagen University Hospital in Denmark speculates that by clearing the body of free radicals, our body's defense mechanisms may be somehow affected. Another suggestion offered by Dr. Gluud is that the supplements actually produce a pro-oxidant effect in the body. He takes it further by warning that health supplements should not be allowed to be added to foods without a complete evaluation of their risks and benefits.

Antioxidants also included in this study were Vitamin C and selenium. Though Vitamin C was not found to be harmful, there was no proven decrease in mortality. Selenium supplementation showed no obvious benefits but did not contribute to mortality.

The doses of beta-carotene, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, and selenium utilized in the study were 17.8 mg, 20,219 IU, 488 mg, 569 IU, and 99 µg, respectively.

This study is strong, and the wording is exact with regards to antioxidant use. The research performed was of high quality. Dr. Gluud states "The question has been thoroughly addressed and we now know the answer — these agents are harmful."

It should be interesting to see what changes, if any will result in the marketing of vitamin supplements. This study result is certain to be referenced in the ongoing push for government regulation of food supplements.

Ref: JAMA. 2007;297:842-857. ◦