Health

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Vitamins Might Raise Risk of Death

April 18, 2008 07:00 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
A review of 67 health studies found that taking supplements of vitamin A, vitamin E and beta-carotene may increase the risk of premature death.

30-Second Summary

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The review, conducted at the Copenhagen University hospital in Denmark, analyzed 67 studies with over 230,000 subjects.

U.K. paper The Guardian reports that when the supplements were evaluated individually, “vitamin A was linked to a 16 percent increased risk of dying, beta-carotene to a 7 percent increased risk and vitamin E to a 4 percent increased risk.”

The report also concluded that vitamin C and selenium supplements had no benefits.

Nonetheless, antioxidants such as vitamins A and E, and beta-carotene, are very beneficial when consumed as fruits and vegetables. Foods high in antioxidants defend the body from damage by free radicals, which harm cells, tissues and organs. 

But Reuters reports: “the Department of Health said most people are able to meet their nutritional needs by eating a balanced and varied diet, including having plenty of fruit and vegetables,” although there are exceptions for pregnant or breastfeeding women.

In fact, an excess of antioxidants in a person’s bloodstream could actually “protect cancer cells and have carcinogenic effects,” writes Jeremy Laurance on a blog for British newspaper The Independent. 

Dr. Mark Moyad, the director of preventive and alternative medicine at the University of Michigan Medical Center, advises people to take supplements in moderation rather than let the study shake their faith in vitamins.

In addition, The New York Times health columnist Jane E. Brody warns consumers to be cautious when it comes to supplements, because the Food and Drug Administration doesn’t have the capacity to test every product on the market: “Caveat emptor.”

Headline Link: The possible threat of antioxidant supplements

Opinion & Analysis: The implications of the study

Related Topic: ‘Airborne Agrees to $23.3 Million False Claims Settlement’

Reference: The review

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