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 Post subject: Antioxidants: threat or menace?
PostPosted: Mon Mar 01, 2010 10:33 pm 
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Due to curiousity, I just went on a web search for information about whether or not so-called "antioxidants" were really the panacea current popular media portrays them as.

Short answer? No.

In fact, it seems that beta carotene and vitamins A and E need to be carefully rationed, and even selenium may hurt you when combined with other antioxidant suppliments:

Http://jama.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/abstract/297/8/842

I wass not able to find any medical study which demonstrated that greater-than-rda quantities of antioxidants had any overall health benefit, although more than a few cited dired action of them on cancer cells.

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 Post subject: Re: Antioxidants: threat or menace?
PostPosted: Tue Mar 02, 2010 5:03 pm 
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The EU just made it illegal for packaging to claim health benefits for antioxidants altogether. It seems they haven't found any evidence they do anything dietarily either.


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 Post subject: Re: Antioxidants: threat or menace?
PostPosted: Thu Mar 04, 2010 9:50 am 
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From my reading of it over time, it seems to possibly be a case of a failure of, as Pollan calls it, nutritional reductionism. There were foods with especially positive health benefits, as measure largely by statistical studies (controlled trials are notoriously difficult for food....). There was some study on why; an extremely important thing to answer when you see correlation. Anti-oxidants were fingered as a possible reason. The 'core' nutrients were extracted and sold as benefits. Unfortunately, quite a few studies have shown these are not benefiting people in the expected way.

Of course, understanding why is a good question. The initial assessment studies could be flawed; for example, it could be various lifestyle or geographic, etc. factors that confounded the initial studies, and it wasn't diet at all (or less so, anyway). Or, it could be diet, but the theoretical why could be in error; perhaps anti-oxidants have nothing to do with it. Or, perhaps in the nutritional reductionism case, it is diet, and it is anti-oxidants, but they cannot be used alone; you can't extract just the anti-oxidants. You need the other substances. Also, likely you need the lifestyle that goes with the anti-oxidants; eating good food. It is likely the whole package is the answer, not just the anti-oxidants.

Just my 0.02.


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 Post subject: Re: Antioxidants: threat or menace?
PostPosted: Thu Mar 04, 2010 10:56 am 
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Love this chart. Check it out. http://www.informationisbeautiful.net/play/snake-oil-supplements/

Mary


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 Post subject: Re: Antioxidants: threat or menace?
PostPosted: Thu Mar 04, 2010 12:00 pm 
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Wow, mary, that is a very nicely done visualization.


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 Post subject: Re: Antioxidants: threat or menace?
PostPosted: Fri Mar 05, 2010 3:25 pm 
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Mary, Very cool chart. Thanks for posting it.

Laurie

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 Post subject: Re: Antioxidants: threat or menace?
PostPosted: Sun Mar 07, 2010 9:39 am 
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I have always wondered how anyone could really extract a certain vitamin, anti-oxidant, etc. out of these studies since there are so many variables that just can't be controlled. I get it for Vitamin C preventing scurvy, etc., but some of the other claims just never seemed provable.

Once I tried a multi-vitamin with "memory aids" (ginko biloba and something else), and two days after I starting taking the vitamin I began stuttering. Really bad. I sounded like Mel Tillis.

I quit taking the supplement and it took a week before the stutter faded. Since then I have avoided all supplements. I figure something has to kill me ;)


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 Post subject: Re: Antioxidants: threat or menace?
PostPosted: Sun Mar 07, 2010 2:25 pm 
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All,

This just exposes again the central fallacy of hyper-vitaminization theory: "If a little Vitamin E is good for me, a lot must be better!" This axiom is not true, has never been true, and nevertheless remains steadfastly popular. Why? Because "eat as much & many vitamins as you can" is easier to understand than "balaced diet", which actually requires thought and work.

Also, Americans are terrified of disease, cancer an old age, and will guzzle any snake oil which claims to prevent them. Has been true since the 19th century, so I don't see why we'd change now.

To put it another way: "Take this pill to defeat cancer" is a lot more marketable than "eat a balanced diet with lots of fresh-cooked vegetables and whole grains to defeat cancer". Even if the latter is true and the former is not.

Heck, just look at the multi-million-dollar popularity of "Airborne" which not only does not prevent you from getting sick on planes, it actually has a large enough overdose of some vitamins to be classed as a poison and banned in most other countries.

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 Post subject: Re: Antioxidants: threat or menace?
PostPosted: Sun Mar 07, 2010 4:14 pm 
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When I was in my 20's, I was taking all sorts of supplements: I had to go to the dermatoligist because my hair was falling out. I had really long hair then, and I would wake with tons of it on my pillow. The first thing the doctor asked was if I was taking multivitamins. I stopped taking them, and my hair started staying put. I was, however, directed to take zinc for my (bad) skin, and was admonished not to take ANY MORE than he told me, because you can build up toxic levels. Better to just east right than to risk it. I never took vitamin e, but I did put it on my face.....

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