Antioxidants Don't Mean Longer Life - They Could Mean The Opposite

By Nacumen · Feb 28, 2007 · Updated Feb 28, 2007 · ·
  1. Nacumen
    [SIZE=+2]Antioxidants Don't Mean Longer Life

    [/SIZE][SIZE=-1]By Rob Stein
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Tuesday, February 27, 2007; 5:14 PM
    Supplements that millions of Americans take to stave off disease and slow the aging process do not boost longevity and appear to actually increase the risk of dying, according to the most comprehensive study of whether popular "antioxidants" help users live longer.
    The analysis, which pooled data from 68 studies involving more than 232,000 people, found no evidence that taking beta carotene, vitamin A or vitamin E extends lifespan and, in fact, indicated that the supplements increase the likelihood of dying by about 5 percent. Vitamin C and selenium appeared to have no impact -- either way -- on longevity.
    Based on the findings, published in Wednesday's issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, the researchers warned that consumers should be cautious about taking supplements containing the nutrients. At least 150 million Americans regularly take dietary supplements that often include antioxidants.
    "The message is: We shouldn't be putting anything in our mouths until we know whether it works," said Christian Gluud of the Copenhagen University Hospital in Denmark, who led the study. "It appears as if these substances may be harmful."
    Representatives of the vitamin industry, as well as some other researchers, disputed the findings, criticizing the study for, among other things, including people who were already sick. People tend to take vitamins to stay healthy, they said.
    "There's a large body of data that shows that antioxidant supplementation is beneficial," said Andrew Shoa of the Council for Responsible Nutrition, an industry group. "The message to the average consumer is: Don't pay attention to this. This doesn't apply to you. You can go ahead and continue taking your antioxidant supplements in addition to the other things you do in your life to stay healthy."
    But Gluud and his colleagues defended the findings, saying the study used careful methods developed by the internationally respected Cochrane Collaboration, an independent non-profit effort to methodically assess medical claims. The analysis included many large studies involving healthy people, and the increased risk was clear after accounting for factors that could confuse the findings, Gluud said.
    "That is what is disturbing," he said.
    Other researchers, while noting that vitamins are useful for people who have nutritional deficiencies, said the findings should prompt people to reconsider whether to continue taking mega-doses in an effort to live longer.
    "This study shows that these products do not prolong life, and may actually shorten it," said Paul M. Coates, who directs the Office of Dietary Supplements at the National Institutes of Health. "If you are taking antioxidant supplements, it would be a good idea to review the results of this study, reflect on why you are taking them and what you hope to gain."
    The findings do not necessarily apply to antioxidants found naturally in fruits, vegetables and other foods, Gluud and other researchers stressed. But the findings are consistent with evidence suggesting that some nutrients may be harmful at high doses or could interfere with the body's natural defenses, Gluud and other researchers said.
    "By taking these supplements, you might be impeding your immune system's ability to fight off disease or risk factors for chronic disease," said Edgar Miller III of Johns Hopkins University, who in 2004 reported similar findings about vitamin E. "People are taking these supplements with the presumption that they will live longer or better. This shows they are not living longer and in fact may be at higher risk of dying."
    Other researchers were cautious about concluding that the substances were dangerous but said the study added to the now large body of evidence indicating that the hoped-for health benefits have not materialized.
    "They probably won't kill you, but they're not going to do any good for you if what you want is to live longer," said Donald A. Berry, a professor biostatistics at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.
    Antioxidant supplements became a multibillion dollar business after studies indicated that the substances may promote health by mopping up damaging "free radicals," which are natural byproducts of cellular processes in the body.
    But a series of studies testing the benefits of taking antioxidants and other nutritional supplements have been disappointing -- another study released Monday found that consuming garlic does not lower cholesterol. And several studies have even been alarming, indicating, for example, that beta carotene increased rather than decreased the risk of lung cancer among smokers, and that vitamin E -- touted to prevent heart disease -- appeared to boost the overall risk of death.
    Gluud and his colleagues combed the scientific literature for every study published about antioxidants since 1990 and found 68 involving 232,606 people. Among those, the researchers identified 47 trials involving 180,938 subjects that they classified as "low-bias" because they were they did the best job of eliminating factors that might produce faulty results.
    When they analyzed that data, the researchers found that those taking any antioxidant were 5 percent more likely to die than those who were not. With vitamin E, the risk rose 4 percent; with beta carotene, 7 percent; and with vitamin A, 16 percent.
    Even though the possible increased risk was relatively small, the "public health consequences may be substantial" because of the large number of people taking the substances, the researchers said.
    Vitamin C and selenium did not appear to have any effect on the risk of dying. But Gluud said "the verdict is still out on those two."
    Efforts are still underway to assess the value of taking individual antioxidants for specific purposes, including a large federal study that is testing whether vitamin E and selenium reduce the risk of prostate cancer.

    A summation of the article: Don't take overdo it when taking antioxidant vitamins, as they likely have negative side-effects which are especially present in high doses.

    After brief consideration, this news shouldn't be too surprising to many of the users on this forum. Your 'average' citizen thinks that the government keeps him safe by regulating that which he is legally allowed to ingest, because if it were something dangerous like drugs, they wouldn't be available to him, right? And taking a dozen pills of vitamins a day can't hurt him because vitamins must make him healthier because they're vitamins, and legal at that, right?

    The complexities created by government regulation backfire once again!

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  1. Nagognog2
    Here we go again: What's good for you this week - will surely kill you dead next week. Then it's back to being good for you, then... I think I'll go fry some eggs in whole butter for a snack. Pass the salt.
  2. Riconoen {UGC}
    Nail on the head Nagognog, Next we'll hear green vegetables are more lethal than cyanide.
  3. El Calico Loco
    Heh...I remember David Letterman's show when the news came out about margarine. All night long, every few minutes, "It's a DEADLY KILLER!!" :)

    Swim's great-grandmother lived well into her eighties eating pork fried in fat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Swim's mother has been trying to destroy herself (heavy use of ethanol, tobacco, heroin, crack, and meth) for 35 years, yet she's made it to 50. Health nuts occasionally get cancer or lupus.

    To hell with the medical "authorities."

  4. darawk
    While they might be right that vitamin A, vitamin E, and beta-carotene can cause problems(it's well known at least that A and E are toxic if you take too much), this does NOT mean that anti-oxidants in general are bad. In fact, this says nothing about the efficacy of anti-oxidants as a class of vitamins, it speaks only to these specific ones.
  5. pabel_giboon
    Have you seen Woody Allen´s "Sleeper". He gets frozen and wakes up 200 years later. First thing doctors do is hand him chocolate and a cigar.

    Nothing better than a real balanced diet with plenty of vegetables and fruit, milk, etc. Said this, it´s good to point SWIMS lunch was 2 hot dogs, a GINKO tablet and a diet soda. SHIT!
  6. El Calico Loco
    I know they're full of crap when it comes to vitamin C. Swim used to get sick all the time. If someone in the office was ill, it was only a question of when, not if, he would become ill himself - and he would probably get it worse and have it longer.

    Since he began taking 500mg of ascorbic acid each morning, he rarely gets sick. He got sick once a couple of months ago; it was the first time in three years. It wasn't even that bad compared to others who got the same nasty bug.

    So what if it doesn't improve longevity? That's 90% genetic. What matters is that it improves his quality of life in the here and now.

  7. Nature Boy
    Mortality in Randomized Trials of Antioxidant Supplements for Primary and Secondary Prevention

    Systematic Review and Meta-analysis

    Goran Bjelakovic, MD, DrMedSci; Dimitrinka Nikolova, MA; Lise Lotte Gluud, MD, DrMedSci; Rosa G. Simonetti, MD; Christian Gluud, MD, DrMedSci

    JAMA. 2007;297:842-857.

    Context Antioxidant supplements are used for prevention of several diseases.

    Objective To assess the effect of antioxidant supplements on mortality in randomized primary and secondary prevention trials.

    Data Sources and Trial Selection We searched electronic databases and bibliographies published by October 2005. All randomized trials involving adults comparing beta carotene, vitamin A, vitamin C (ascorbic acid), vitamin E, and selenium either singly or combined vs placebo or vs no intervention were included in our analysis. Randomization, blinding, and follow-up were considered markers of bias in the included trials. The effect of antioxidant supplements on all-cause mortality was analyzed with random-effects meta-analyses and reported as relative risk (RR) with 95% confidence intervals (CIs). Meta-regression was used to assess the effect of covariates across the trials.

    Data Extraction We included 68 randomized trials with 232 606 participants (385 publications).

    Data Synthesis When all low- and high-bias risk trials of antioxidant supplements were pooled together there was no significant effect on mortality (RR, 1.02; 95% CI, 0.98-1.06). Multivariate meta-regression analyses showed that low-bias risk trials (RR, 1.16; 95% CI, 1.05-1.29) and selenium (RR, 0.998; 95% CI, 0.997-0.9995) were significantly associated with mortality. In 47 low-bias trials with 180 938 participants, the antioxidant supplements significantly increased mortality (RR, 1.05; 95% CI, 1.02-1.08). In low-bias risk trials, after exclusion of selenium trials, beta carotene (RR, 1.07; 95% CI, 1.02-1.11), vitamin A (RR, 1.16; 95% CI, 1.10-1.24), and vitamin E (RR, 1.04; 95% CI, 1.01-1.07), singly or combined, significantly increased mortality. Vitamin C and selenium had no significant effect on mortality.

    Conclusions Treatment with beta carotene, vitamin A, and vitamin E may increase mortality. The potential roles of vitamin C and selenium on mortality need further study.

    Author Affiliations: The Cochrane Hepato-Biliary Group, Copenhagen Trial Unit, Center for Clinical Intervention Research, Copenhagen University Hospital, Rigshospitalet, Copenhagen, Denmark (Drs Bjelakovic, L. L. Gluud, Simonetti, and C. Gluud and Ms Nikolova); Department of Internal Medicine, Gastroenterology and Hepatology, University of Nis, Nis, Serbia (Dr Bjelakovic); and Divisione di Medicina, Ospedale V. Cervello, Palermo, Italy (Dr Simonetti).



    NB: Just felt I should add this to the thread as a friend of mine recently highlighted this risk of antixodants to me a couple of days ago. It seems the antioxidant craze is yet another one of these myths that has spread into the minds of people worldwide. There appears to be an increased risk of mortality and no benefits to speak of. Ultimately, this renders antioxidants to be useless. I myself was under the impression that they may not necessarily be effective but this meta-analysis shows that they actually do damage which is pretty frightening considering how many people swear by them. Just a heads up. Do yourself a favour and flush those antioxidant capsules down your toilet.
  8. Caduceus Mercurius
    Which type of vitamin E did they use? α-, β-, γ-, or δ-tocopherol?

    And what kind of selenium are we talking about here? Seleno-methionine, seleno-cysteine or an inorganic compound?

    Did the researchers analyze the kind of antioxidants found in quality supplements and vegetables, or did they do their research with the cheapest, synthetic, inorganic compounds available?

    As the saying goes: don't throw out the baby with the bathwater...

      elluzie likes this.
  9. EscapeDummy
    Swim firmly believes at this point, ANYTHING scientists say about longevity, or lifespan, is completely unsubstantiated. WE DONT KNOW SHIT. THERE ARE TOO MANY CONFOUNDING VARIABLES. Red wine, antioxidants, caloric restriction, reservatrol, sorry, hate to break it to you, we don't know what ANY of those things do to people, in the long or short term. We can draw millions of correlations, but any implication of causation has to be questioned, more or less. I'm willing to accept that a diet high in calories, mainly from fats and carbs, causes atherosclerosis and other health complications. That's about it.
  10. Nature Boy
    Thing is, when it comes to antioxidants, I can't ever recall hearing a scientist speak of their benefits. I think their popularity rose through marketing and word of mouth more than anything. Anyway, don't always accept what scientists say. Just read the actual science. If more people did this, they wouldn't have been convinced of using antioxidants in the first place because even the earliest studies were inconclusive.
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