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Author Topic: Article: "Antioxidants don't help you live longer"  (Read 4443 times)

Offline Julia Zaslow

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Article: "Antioxidants don't help you live longer"
« on: February 27, 2007, 06:52:56 PM »
Here's a discussion-worthy article about a study published in last week's JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) looking at the effectiveness of antioxidant supplements:

Antioxidants don't help you live longer

The leading paragraph of the article reads: "Antioxidant vitamins taken by tens of millions of people around the world won't lead to a longer life, according to an analysis of dozens of studies that adds to evidence questioning the value of the popular supplements. The large review of separate studies on thousands of people found no long-life benefit from vitamins A, E and C and beta carotene and selenium."

It's a typical news headline---misleading and overstating. It would be more accurate if it read "Some antioxidant supplements may not lead to longer life", since it is antioxidant supplements in pill form that the study is referring to, not antioxidants found in food. In fact, in the second paragraph of the article the author states: "Others said the study supports the theory that antioxidants work best when they are consumed in food rather than pills."

I haven't read the study myself, but from the article and from the abstract of the study posted on the JAMA website (, it seems like the study may be jumping to some pretty broad conclusions based on wildly diverse data. For example, it doesn't appear that the study's authors differentiate by the quality of the supplement given (i.e. synthetic, naturally-derived or food-based), the dosage, or duration. Or, for that matter, by the age or physical condition of the patients. Their primary conclusion is: "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." Sounds pretty scary. Personally, I don't see how they can honestly come to such a conclusion without further study and further refinement of their data sets. It would be useful to see how the results differed if they did discriminate between the forms of the vitamins given. It is well known that the natural form of vitamin E is far superior to the synthetic form, for example (not to mention that the ratio of alpha-, gamma-, delta- and beta-tocopherols is also very important). I would hazard a guess that the negative health effects that the study found may have been due more to the cheap, synthetic form of the supplements given than to anything else.

To me, the most useful conclusion that can be taken from the research was made by Alice Lichtenstein, a professor of nutrition science and policy at Tufts University, who was quoted at the end of the article as saying: "Rely on food to get your nutrients."

Bravo. Sounds like Eating for Health to me!

Offline jodi f.

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Re: Article: "Antioxidants don't help you live longer"
« Reply #1 on: February 28, 2007, 12:56:50 PM »
I too read this on yahoo news this morning and was immediately struck by 2 things:

        1) the quality, quantity and duration of supplementation (as mentioned by Julie). I know from my steady doses of scientific reading that the beta carotene/lung cancer study that found increased cancer with supplement usage, used synthetic beta carotene.

        2) What struck me the most, though, was the conclusion that anti-oxidants didn't extend life. What's left out of this is quality of life. Living long, as we all know, doesn't mean a thing if we don't have health. The yahoo article, at least, never mentioned health, just longevity. Also, excuse me, but how do they know they didn't extend the lives of some of the study participants? Just because overall, average mortality figures for the groups didn't improve, that doesn't mean anti-oxidants didn't extend individual lives. Statistics--gotta love 'em.

Offline blujay

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Re: Article: "Antioxidants don't help you live longer"
« Reply #2 on: March 19, 2007, 07:10:49 PM »
Yup, just like any 'medical study', it can be skewed and interpreted to mean whatever the funders and scientist desire.

You both have made very astute observations that anyone truly concerned about accurate and helpful studies would have to be blind to overlook (in this case the scientists who performed this study). Because there are numerous studies on the toxicity of synthetic and mega-doses of vitamin A and other nutrients.

I fear this is just more cannon fodder for the upcoming blast against the supplement industry.

Also a worthy note, the antioxidants that they studied were quite common and not the most exciting. There are more news worthy antioxidants that have shown to extend life, among other benefits. Check out the video on this link

Another valuable point, I find it a perplexing coincidence that the most healthy compounds and nutrients found in FOODS are the focus of usually positive news reports that benefit our health. As opposed to the lack of reports about the health and healing benefits of synthetic drugs. Do you think that we might be on to something? I just hope and pray that people will soon accept the plain truth starring them in the face, that the prevention through a healthy diet and lifestyle is the CURE!

Tell me what you eat, and I'll tell you what you will become!