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Are Antioxidant Vitamins Good For You Or Not?

This morning I received an email from a reader who wanted to know my opinion of taking antioxidant vitamins. It appears that Dr. Oz is doing a show today on the subject following a new research study that questions whether these supplements do more harm than good.

Of course there’s a lot of sizzle and hype used in promos for the show to get people to tune in. Things like “could antioxidants put you at risk for cancer?” This obviously gets attention and unfortunately many people will skim over the headlines and start making assumptions.

While you can certainly tune in and watch the Dr. Oz show, let me ease some concerns by revealing what this new research study really found. Then I’ll provide my two cents on some practical advice.

More after the jump…

Antioxidant vitamins have long been promoted for their benefit in helping to combat free-radicals in the body. There’s plenty of research to support these claims.

Antioxidants act as defenders at the cellular level where they provide protection for the cells and assist with regeneration. Free-radicals on the other hand can damage the cells and contribute to degeneration.

That’s a simplistic way to look at things. Antioxidants are good for health and free radicals are bad. The reality is things aren’t that simple. As it is with everything in the human body the key component is balance. Tilt the scales too far in one direction and bad things happen.

Yes, as we know too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. The human body is magnificently designed, far beyond our understanding, to be able to take even the “bad things” such as free radicals and put them to good use.

Being the nerd that I am with learning everything I can about how the human body functions, I’ve read extensively on how free radicals play a role in some essential defensive mechanisms like apoptosis, phagocytosis, and detoxification.

Let me save you the boring reading by just saying this…I believe God knew what he was doing when he created us. While we’ve certainly made a great deal of progress in combating illness and disease, far too often our attempts to “fix” or optimize health gets twisted.

The use of synthetic, isolated vitamins is a perfect example. Now don’t get me wrong, I think that a high quality multivitamin or even moderate dosages of individual vitamins and minerals can be a beneficial thing. The problem arises when we take too much and disrupt the body’s balance.

Simply put we need “enough” vitamins and minerals, and while supplementation can help to fill in the gaps, the majority of antioxidants should come from whole, natural foods.

Alright, let’s look at the study in which Dr. Oz will be referring to on his show.

Mortality in Randomizes Trials of Antioxidant Supplements For Primary and Secondary Prevention.

This study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association which you can reference with the link below:

Antioxidant Supplement Study

The study consisted of a meta-analysis (looking at a large group of studies) regarding the use of antioxidant supplements such as beta carotene, vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin C, selenium, and others.

The researchers from Copenhagen University Hospital looked at 68 different trials, encompassing 232,606 patients in total.

What they concluded was a 5% increased risk of mortality on average with the antioxidant supplementation.

What’s unclear is how much supplementation was associated with the increased risk?

Regardless, there’s little need to freak out if you’re taking antioxidant vitamins in part of a daily multivitamin formulation.

If you’re downing hand fulls of vitamin E or some other vitamin, for whatever reason in hopes of improving your health, yeah this could be a problem.

There’s no evidence here that just because you consume a synthetic multivitamin with antioxidants that you’re going to have an increased risk of cancer. We need to put this in the proper perspective.

Remember it’s all about a balancing act. Just don’t tilt the scales too far in one direction.

The best recommendation I can provide is to look at getting your antioxidant needs met primarily from nature’s fruits and and vegetables. Here things don’t work in isolation. Vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other phytonutrients work synergisitically to give your body what it needs in the right amounts.

Consume plenty of live foods, get regular exercise, adequate sleep, and follow a healthy lifestyle minimizing toxins, and things will take care of itself.

Nature knows what it’s doing, you don’t need a bunch of synthetic pills whipped up in some lab to provide you with health. Filling in the gaps and optimizing for deficiencies is one thing, just don’t try to self-cure ailments by loading up on vitamins from your local GNC.

Shane Doll is a certified Charleston personal trainer, fat loss expert, speaker, and founder of Shaping Concepts. With a staff of over 10 certified fitness professionals, Shaping Concepts provides personal fitness training in Charleston with a specialty on weight loss and body transformation. Sign up today for a no obligations consultation.

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Category: Nutrition.