Antioxidants - To Supplement or Not To Supplement?

March 30, 2004

Dr. 
   
I've just had anamusing experience. This well-written article, Which antioxidant supplements should we take? , says, "For the general population, almost no authoritative source recommends antioxidant supplements, many advise against them, and probably every one prefers real food to supplements." It continues:
    "For persuasive elaboration, ask Google about the word “antioxidants” combined with any of these terms: National Cancer Institute, NIH (the U.S. government), New England Journal of Medicine, Harvard, Quackwatch, AHA, AMA, etc. If vitamin C “cured your aunt’s cancer”, tell those institutions. When you convince them, they’ll inform us and we’ll relay it to our readers. For now, these institutions state that a) antioxidants are vital to our health and longevity, b) most Americans need more antioxidants, but c) most antioxidant supplements are usually useless at best."
    So asked Google about "antioxidants    Harvard", and guess what I found? practically every Harvard reference that comes up recommends vitamin supplementation! The first reference, at the top of the page, requires subscription to the Harvard Health Letter, and I no longer subscribe to it, so I couldn't look in it.
    The next Harvard publication, Harvard Health: The Rusting Body, argues that the evidence is strong that vitamin E supplements at a dosage level of 400 I. U. to 800 I. U. a day help prevent heart disease. Professor Walter Willett, M. D., Stare Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition at the School of Public Health, observes that the landmark beta-carotene study of smokers that showed that beta-carotene increases the cahnces of lung cancer among smokers was a study of synthetic high-dose beta-carotene supplements in a population already at high risk for lung cancer.
    Beyond this is a report from the Harvard School of Public Health Nutrition Roundtable. This report recommends vitamin E for preventing heart disease. The Harvard faculty giving the report take 400 I. U. a day. (Bruce Ames takes 200 I. U. a day.)
    The I came upon this. This is of particular interest to us because Tommie Jean is taking the statin drug Zocor. Still, this article recommends a multivitamin pill, plus extra calcium. For maular degeneration, it recommends 500 mg. of vitamin C, 400 I. U. of vitamin E, 25,000 I. U. of pro-vitamin A, 80 mg. of zinc, and 2 mg. of copper.
    Middle-aged men should take 200 mg. of selenium and 400 I. U. of vitamin E.
    Anyone on statin drugs (e. g., Zocor) + niacin shouldn't take antioxidants.
    In one study reporting back in 2001, 4,500 people took 670 I. U. of vitamin E or 100 mg. of aspirin for four years. Vitamin E had no effect upon the heart attack rate, while aspirin lowered it by 44% (to a little over half).
    Two studies will report back in 2005, both giving antioxidants to healthy individuals (unlike the previous studies, all of which involved fairly sick patients.
    And here's a testimonial to chocolate!



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