Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Antioxidant supplements have been found to be harmful

If you take multivitamins or supplements in general, you might want to read on:
If the antioxidants that occur naturally in our food, like broccoli and carrots, are good for us, a supplement with the same thing must also be good. But that’s not quite true. 
Antioxidants can help stop damage to our cells. 
Antioxidants are touted as protectors of our health because they eliminate free-radicals that damage molecules in cells and tissues by grabbing electrons from them, making those molecules, in turn, unstable. 
This process can then snowball until a cell dies or even a whole organ collapses, such as in liver failure or heart failure. An antioxidant should stop the electron-grabbing radicals, and keep us healthy.
So scientists labored to put these benevolent antioxidants in pills to help us fight off disease-causing free radicals.
But it’s not that simple. The constant interplay between electron acceptors (radicals) and donors (antioxidants) is a finely balanced and very complicated biochemistry at the core of how living cells survive and grow. When there is too much of either acceptors or donors, the system is out of balance, and damage can occur. So extra antioxidants aren’t necessarily a good thing. 
[...] The plan was to follow the men and women for 10 years; the researchers hypothesized they would observe a lower lung cancer risk in the beta-carotene tablet group, hopefully much lower. But the opposite happened and the trial had to be stopped early because the beta-carotene group suffered significantly more cases of lung cancer than the placebo group. The same thing was seen in the Finland trial. 
Importantly, the amount of beta-carotene in the tablet was much higher than occurs naturally in the body in both trials. The researchers assumed that if a little is good, more must be better. They were wrong. 
‘Antioxidant’ supplements in general are harmful.
And the evidence that when it comes to antioxidants, more isn’t necessarily better, keeps mounting. In 2007 a combined analysis of 68 randomized trials of any antioxidant supplements showed a statistically significant 5% increase in risk of death in the groups taking the supplements compared to the groups taking placebo pills.
So in conclusion, spending all that money for pills might just be worse for you:
This highlights a serious problem with all the attempts to put good food in pill form: the dose has been far in excess of what is in the actual foods. For example, wheat germ has the highest concentration of vitamin E tested, yet the tablets used in the trials of vitamin E had more than 10 times this amount. The Western medicine paradigm of “if a little is good, more must be better” is almost never true; for example, water is a good thing, right? But drink too much water in a short time, and you’ll drop dead. 
The vegetables that are linked to lower risk of disease contain many nutrients in addition to antioxidants such as beta-carotene. The combination of all these nutrients in a natural source may be the key to their effectiveness and thereby not amenable to a reductionist splitting into one “active ingredient” that can be put into a pill.

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