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ANTI OXIDANT DANGER? Flawed conclusions - AGAIN!


Flawed conclusions, again!

And still it goes on - A new study reports that taking antioxidant supplements does not prolong life and that using certain specific antioxidants may slightly increase the risk of death.
It would be wise not to take this too seriously, as the study is a rewritten version of a study published a year ago in the JAMA (journal of the American Medical Association) that received heavy media coverage. The new study presents the same data that has already been reported and discredited!

This is just another example of poor science/research and is something we have seen plenty of over the years.

As in the earlier presentation, the researchers looked at 67 clinical trials involving anti-oxidants and categorised them as either a high or low risk for error. Of these 20 clinical trials were considered "high bias risk" and were excluded - but the reason why these particular trials were excluded is not made clear, their exclusion does however significantly alter the end results.

The data that was pooled from the remaining 47 trials (at total of 180939 people) showed that taking any anti-oxidant increased the risk of death by 5%.
For individual supplements, the risk was increased by 4% with Vitamin E, 7% with synthetic beta carotene, and 16% with vitamin A. All of these increases were statistically significant.
Vitamin C and Selenium had no effect on mortality.

As in the earlier paper, the reasons for the exclusion of the 20 trials don't make any sense.  The criteria used by the researchers to decide if the trial should be included was the standard "double blind control", but when having the end point of "death" there is little suggestion that a researchers awareness of the treatment assignments may influence this type of objective result - death.

Had the researchers included all the trials, the reliability of the findings would not have been endangered and therefore there was no compelling reason to exclude them. The results would have shown no significant effect (on mortality) of anti-oxidant use in general, or of any specific anti-oxidant on its own.

Another factor with this report is that even though the study was published in a reputable medical journal( the Cochrane Database), it is not a publication that specialises in nutrition and neither the authors or the reviewers appear to have been aware of how failing to adjust for the differences between these studies may have effected the study conclusions.
Even within this study, despite its negative conclusions, some of the "low-bias risk" trials that were included showed a clear benefit, an example of this is a trial that lasted 7.5 years and included more than 13000 people, modest doses of a combination of Vitamin C, Vitamin E, beta-carotene, selenium, and zinc reduced the death rate in male subjects by 37%.

So for my money I prefer to go with the general understanding that supports the use of antioxidants as an effective way to improve a whole range of physiological processes in our body.
Antioxidants in supplements are used by tens of millions of people around the world, many specific uses are supported by a wide body of research developed over many years that has been published in reputable medical journals that understand the science associated with managing health through nutrition.

Studies have shown:
  • Vitamin C may prevent or help treat heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and possibly asthma.
  • Vitamin E has shown to be beneficial for intermittent claudication and rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Selenium may help prevent heart disease, BPH(benign prostatic hypertrophy) and even certain types of cancer.

So to summarise, obviously we all know how important a balanced approach to managing our health and wellbeing is. This includes eating well from a range of good quality fresh unprocessed foods, limiting our exposure to toxins and, keeping fit and active, reducing our stress levels as well as supplementing with various nutrients that may not be supplied adequately from the typical diet.

There will be comments made in various media as a result of this rehash of old research - perhaps even from people you know - just let them know that its important to keep things in context and remember that there is well demonstrated evidence that antioxidants may improve or prevent certain medical conditions and improve overall quality of life.

We have a saying that the most powerful antioxidant is not from a fruit or berry - it is found inside our body......find out more by clicking here.

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