In the contrary to the health benefit linked with vitamin supplements, a Danish-led review of 47 meta analysis of clinical trials entitled “Mortality in Randomized Trials of Antioxidant Supplements for Primary and Secondary Prevention Systematic Review and Meta-analysis”, involving 180,938 patients, has concluded that vitamins A, E and beta carotene were closely linked to a rise of 5% higher risk of death. Another alarming fact was that beta-carotene, vitamin A and vitamin E were respectively represented by 7%, 16% and 4% increased risk of death. Some of the eye-catching articles entitled “Vitamins’ could shorten lifespan” and “Antioxidants Don’t Mean Longer Life” are also included in this report.

This report was led by a Serbian doctor, Goran Bjelakovic of the Centre for Clinical Intervention Research at Copenhagen University Hospital and published on February 28, 2007 in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) which has triggered the newspaper headlines of The Times, UK (“Supplements raise death rate by 5), Le Soir, France (“Des vitamines dangereuses pour la santé?”), BBC News, UK (“Vitamins ‘could shorten lifespan”), Los Angeles Times, USA (“Another knock on antioxidants”) and most of the media coverage around the world. Indeed, these findings have come out as a shock to the scientists as it appeared to contradict to the previous epidemiological studies that concluded the vitamin supplement is a key factor to reduce risk of chronic diseases, as well as some academic documentations that remarked higher levels of intake of the natural antioxidants deriving from vegetables and fruits have positive effects towards human health.

In the report, it was written that “Beta carotene, vitamin A, and vitamin E given singly or combined with other antioxidant supplements significantly increase mortality,” and “Our findings contradict the findings of observational studies, claiming that antioxidants improve health.” The research also concluded that no evidence saying that vitamin C can increase longevity when it is remarked as, “We lack evidence to refute a potential negative effect of vitamin C on survival.”Another report by JAMA remarked that, “Neither vitamin E nor vitamin C supplementation reduced the risk of prostate or total cancer.”

Some experts even have doubt on the health properties of synthetic antioxidants as the clinical tests on the effects of antioxidants don’t take nutrient synergy into consideration, but the pharmaceutical studies rely wholly on artificial analogs and synthetic versions of the healthy property of antioxidants. In contrary to natural antioxidants, the synthetic analogs cannot be reused or recycled by the organism. That is to say, once they’ve “spent”(donate) their electron, they prone to increase a harmful metabolic by-products rather than decreasing, in which of course will cause a total load of oxidative stress on the organism. Perhaps, this is a convincing explanation why it leads to a contradictory outcome.

This finding by JAMA, of course, comes as the disappointing news when millions of people around the world are in the hope to take vitamin supplements to prevent/ delay diseases. This study significantly disagrees with the results in the mid-1990s that suggested antioxidants such as Vitamin E, selenium and beta carotene may decrease the incidence of prostate cancer.

According to Nutrition Business Journal, the most popular antioxidants are vitamins C, E and beta carotene which Americans have spend about $2 billion on purchasing them annually and yet, they find this finding to be shocking since they believe that these antioxidants can cure just about everything. This report seems to confuse those who take antioxidants over-the counter as the review of the JAMA study has concluded that certain antioxidants has null health benefit and thus they might not be able to prevent diseases, in contrast to that, they may increase the risk of mortality. And the debate behind the issue of vitamin supplements has reached to its controversy level.

In a blow of health benefit associated with vitamin supplements, a wide range of antioxidants that continuously flood the market have claimed to be beneficial for health. They even emphasis that the antioxidants (most of them are hype mixtures of beta-carotene and other carotenoids) provide the same benefits as natural antioxidants deriving from fruits and vegetables. Now, our question here is whether these supplementations have really benefited us more good than harm and the disappointing answer is “no”. That’s why, up to now, FDA, an organization that regulates medicine and food products, won’t permit any of these substances which include antioxidants and phytochemicals to be marked with labels that they can prevent diseases. Hence, the makers of vitamin supplements are not obliged to register their products with FDA.

Antioxidants have long been thought as a promising way to lower the risk of diseases such as hypertension, stroke, cancers, cardiovascular and etc, and they’re also used widely in people with a problem of malnutrition. Antioxidants, in other word, have become part of the dietary sources for nutritional intake of certain vitamins. During the cell metabolism, antioxidants come into their play to convert hydrogen peroxide (or scavenge/neutralize free radicals) into H2O (water) and O2 (oxygen) and this in turn will help our body to maintain its healthy state.

When the studies try to deny the health effect of antioxidants, then what on earth for us to eat fruits and vegetables that are rich in natural antioxidants? Since they’re perceived as “harmful”, then every one of us should go for a diet that has lower or none antioxidants. How could this be? It’s utterly rubbish, right?

When your diet is low in antioxidants, free radicals start to take advantage of this opportunity to attack your cells membranes and immune system. Moreover, low natural antioxidants diet also lead free radicals to be existed in abundant, which will definitely cause your antioxidant unable to scavenge them. This situation will eventually contribute to oxidative damage and the bad guys “free radicals” via the chain reactions will “eat away” your cells, tissues, cells membranes and major organs, sitting there contentedly and seeing you collapse into the progress of chronic diseases. These bad guys will never stop here, as they’ll cruelly “synopsis” your immune system as well. Let me tell you one alarming fact about this free radical. For those who age 70 and above, your size of liver has been “eaten away” by the free radicals twice time less than a person of 20 years old. How terrible!  Now, could you see how “ugly” and “deadly” these guys (free radicals) are? What could I say about these free radicals? They’re indeed a cellular “shark” that alter your biochemical compound, destroy your cells and cells membranes, impair your immune system, damage your DNA molecules, damage your major organs and corrode cell membranes in little more than a millionth of a second! Wow, this ravenous shark is so hungry to bite on your cellular molecule! More alarming fact is that a single free radical can destroy a strand of DNA, an entire cell, an enzyme and a protein molecule. What is even more appalling is that it can form a torrential chain by producing million, billion or more killers of free radicals in your body! Sound scary, right?

As for your information, free radical induced-reaction, free radical and free radical reactions are good answers to the cause of many chronic diseases people are facing nowadays. In many cases, many diseases, premature aging, progress of aging and degenerative conditions are not entirely caused by the infections of pathogens. Instead, the origin of these conditions can always be diverted to the routes of the presence of free radicals.

Oxidative stress occurs when superoxide is oxidatively damaged molecules causing them to lose their functional integrated network system that can initiate disease states. When glucose and protein molecules are oxidatively damaged, there, the formation of glycated proteins lead to a disease called cataract. In a condition that the amount of superoxide is in excess of the ability of the antioxidants (or the antioxidant system in the cells) that they can be scavenged, it can lead your body to produce highly reactive secondary radical called the peroxynitrite radical via the chemical reaction with nitric oxide (NO). This radical is particularly deadly as it’ll “eat away” your cell membranes and lead you to a nasty consequence of arthritis, ED, cardiovascular disease, and etc. Additionally, when the glutathione-catalase system is unable to transform hydrogen peroxide that formed during cell metabolism, these deleterious hydroxyl radicals will exist in abundant, and their presence of course is not welcomed as it’ll gradually “eat away” your protein molecules, enzyme molecules, cell membranes, DNA molecules, and hormone molecules. One should now understand that this is a “short-cut” for the excess of diseases and it serves as a very good “channel” for the free radical to “modify” the healthy cells into cancerous cells. This explains why cancer patients generally, have in excess amount of hydroxyl radicals and superoxide as well in their bodies. These radicals in fact have intensifying their present health by exacerbating the free radical biochemistry and thus this situation can be extremely dangerous to the sufferers.

Now, you know one fundamental truth – synthetic vitamins are harmful. Like other synthetic molecules, these synthetic vitamins remain unstable once they’ve donated one electron to a molecule that has been compromised by oxidation, and when they’ve broken down in a metabolic process, hydrogen peroxide is their final by-products. For the patients to fight against this situation, they must have the free radical scavenging ability to convert those hydroxyl radicals and hydrogen peroxide into oxygen and water as soon as they’re formed as mentioned earlier. Hence, taking natural antioxidants is particularly important to improve your body’s free radical scavenging potential as an efficient way to prevent health issues and the onset of other diseases, and of course, to help delay the aging process and free radical-induced diseases. In a broader context, the natural antioxidants actually assist to prevent the oxidative stress due to the excess free radicals, protect yourself from being thrown into a dilemma of disease states, and to curb the formation of secondary radicals in your body.

Discussing up to this point, of particular interest is “Where could I obtain these natural antioxidants?”  Many foods and plants include fruits and vegetables provide your body with powerful antioxidants. Besides the diet, the metabolic enzymes produced by your body also furnish your body with powerful antioxidant scavengers. But sadly to say, the body’s ability to produce such enzymes will shrink dramatically after the late twenties. USDA (US Department of Agriculture) has listed foods that are high in antioxidants in accordance to their Oxygen Radical Absorbence Capacity (ORAC). The higher the number of ORAC, the higher the antioxidant value it’ll be. These ratings are based upon 3 ½ oz of the tested food: Kale (1,770), Spinach (1,260), Broccoli (890), Brussels sprouts (980), strawberries (1,570), carrots (207), blueberries (2,400), raisins (2,830) and prunes (5,770). Wow, the prune is the highest in the list! So, make sure you eat prunes every day.

As explained in this article, two important facts of the importance of antioxidants. Firstly, they help your body neutralize the harmful effects of free radicals while stopping the chain reaction formation by newly generated free radicals under favourable consequence of your body condition. Secondly, at therapeutic levels, their existence is crucial to help reverse many effects of aging, premature aging and disease. Nevertheless, high doses of vitamins can be detrimental to your health. The National Academy of Science has recommended the limit for vitamin C at 200mg (deriving both from diets and supplements) per day, vitamin E at 1,000mg per day, and selenium at 400mg (deriving both from diets and supplements) per day. Below listed the negative health benefit of antioxidants:

The overdose of vitamin E may cause intestinal cramping, thrombophlebitis, acne, diarrhea, fatigue, breast soreness and elevated blood pressure (may cause blood clotting) in certain individuals. People with anemia shouldn’t take two supplements at a time as vitamin E is antagonistic to iron. Other side effects of high doses of vitamin E are that it’ll delay the blood clotting time, cause hemorrhaging in individuals who are taking anticoagulants, interfere with vitamin E to cause other health issues.

The overdose of selenium may cause brittle hair, black or fragile fingernails, dermatologic lesions, nausea, dizziness, and metallic taste.

The overdose of vitamin C may cause ulcer flare-ups, kidney stones, cramps, abdominal, osmotic diarrhea and gout.

The overdose of vitamin A may cause hair loss, skin lesions, bone disease for those who have a chronic kidney failure, nausea and headache.

Final remark:

As some antioxidant supplements may interact with medication, it’s always better for you to consult with your doctor, nutritionist, pharmacist or physician before consuming these nutritional supplements for your safety health purpose. Personally, I think that a well-balanced and healthy diet is an appropriate way to furnish your body with powerful free radical scavenging agents. Still, if you feel your dietary is insufficient to provide you antioxidants, you should always seek for your doctor’s advice before taking one or more supplements to avoid any unexpected incidences.

Of course, I’ll say natural antioxidants are better than synthetic antioxidants. You can only obtain beneficial antioxidants such as lycopenes and flavonoids from foods as they’re not existed in vitamin supplements. A report by Opthalmology (archive of March 2007) further supports my opinion by stating that beta-carotene when consumed from carrots is beneficial to eyes, but it has null effect in preventing age-related macular degeneration when it is taken in supplemental form.

In whatever foods and drinks you take, moderation is a critical factor towards a healthier life. Any excessive amount or high dose intake won’t benefit your health in general, but it may lead you to poisoning or feeling very sick. Similarly, antioxidants should take in its appropriate amount so as to beneficial from its health reward.

Antioxidants have long been known for their excellent free radical scavenging potential in combating cancer, eradicating damaging effects of free radicals, preventing the damage of DNA cells, major organs and cell membranes by a torrential chain of million, billion or even more killers of free radicals in your body. However, the Danish conducted “meta-analysis” report has denied their roles in reducing the risk of chronic diseases. How true is this finding? Can the vitamins kill your health?

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