VITAMINS and ANTIOXIDANTS: forewarned means forearmed.

VITAMINS and ANTIOXIDANTS: forewarned is forearmed.

It would seem that if you lead a group “about a healthy lifestyle” – it is enough to “give out” to your subscribers what may be useful to them, as soon as it catches your eye (so to speak, “in real time”). However, having accumulated a certain “critical mass” of knowledge and having understood something important, you feel dissatisfaction with the fact that for the majority of subscribers all this remains “behind the scenes.” Today (in the days of “big data”) few people have the time and motivation to bring together “disparate” data (from another – not professional – sphere of knowledge), generalize them and dot the “i”.

This kind of dissatisfaction prompted me to write several “review” publications on various topics [1], [2], [3], [4], [5]. Here’s another such topic.

“Better to be healthy and rich!” – Who is arguing with this? Already in the very first textbooks on advertising and marketing, it was indicated that health is a very powerful argument that stimulates any sales. We all want to stay healthy and as much as we can and help our body in this.

And we “got” … Paper and electronic media, including the Internet, vied with each other to offer us something that is almost impossible to refuse – “otherwise, we will bitterly regret …” in boxes of juices and bottles of tea, in sweets and milk. The results of the “works” of marketers of everything and everyone are in plain sight.

But maybe you need to listen to what the doctors think about it?


Difficulty conceiving is common in both developed and developing countries. In the United States, the percentage of married women aged 16 to 44 who had difficulty achieving and maintaining pregnancy increased from 8% in 1982 to 11.8% in 2002, a rise that cannot yet be fully explained. According to a study by Johns Hopkins University [6], women who have adequate levels of vitamins in their bodies are more likely to become pregnant and maintain a pregnancy, even if they are exposed to high levels of pesticides known to be harmful to reproductive functions. The researchers’ findings suggest that B vitamins may have a protective effect by counteracting the effects of DDT on the body.

DDT is a well-known endocrine disruptor. It is still used to kill mosquitoes in many countries where malaria remains a major public health problem. The United States banned it in 1972. China followed the US lead in 1984.

DDT, however, can remain in humans and the environment for decades..

“Our previous work has shown that high levels of DDT in the body can increase the risk of early miscarriage,” said study leader Wang Xiaobin, MD, professor at Johns Hopkins University. “This study tells us that improved nutrition can modify the toxic effects of DDT by making the body better prepared to deal with environmental toxins and stressors. We showed that women with high levels of DDT who also had high levels of B vitamins were more likely to get and maintain a pregnancy than those who lack these B vitamins. “

The standard of care in many countries is the use of iron folate supplementation for women in antenatal care, between 8 and 12 weeks of gestation. But unlike the United States, where many foods are fortified with folic acid, this is not the norm around the world. And, if the supplement is not taken before conception, then it most likely cannot prevent early pregnancy loss..


Supplement advertisements may give you the impression that your food is simply not nutritious enough. Why Eat Fruits and Vegetables When You Can Get “The Same” From Supplements That Contain Good Things Like Antioxidants In Convenient Pills?

It seems like it should be a good idea. If the antioxidants in broccoli and carrots are good for us, then synthetic supplements with the same should

be good. But it turns out that this is not at all the case [7].

Antioxidants are touted as “our health protectors” because they scavenge free radicals that damage molecules in cells and tissues. This process can snowball and lead to cell death or even the destruction of an entire organ, for example, in liver or heart failure. The antioxidant should stop radicals from taking up electrons in our cells and keep us healthy..

Based on this, in 1981 a group of scientists proposed to create biologically active food supplements to fight free radicals. They reasoned that since many medical studies have shown that people who eat a lot of vegetables are less at risk of colon cancer, heart disease, and many other diseases, the “active” ingredients must be identified and put into tablets. They thought that beta-carotene should also be among them, which helps make carrots orange, because it is an antioxidant..

But it’s not that simple. The constant interaction between electron acceptors (radicals) and donors (antioxidants) is a delicately balanced and highly complex biochemistry in the nucleus of a living cell. When there are too many acceptors or donors, the system is out of balance and damage is possible.

Therefore, additional antioxidants are not necessarily a good thing..

Back in the late 1980s, there were two studies, one in Seattle and the other in Finland. In Seattle, about 18,000 men and women were studied. They received either tablets containing beta-carotene or tablets containing no active ingredients (placebo).

The study was planned to be conducted within 10 years.

The researchers monitored the reduction in lung cancer risk in the beta-carotene group, hoping for a significant reduction in the incidence. But the opposite happened, and the study was stopped earlier, because this group of people suffered significantly more than the placebo group. The same result was obtained in Finland.

The main thing is that the amount of beta-carotene in the tablet was much higher than it is found in nature. The researchers suggested that reducing the amount of antioxidants in the pills would be better. But, they were wrong. Antioxidant dietary supplements are generally harmful. Evidence that more is not necessarily better when it comes to antioxidants continues to grow.

In 2007, an analysis of randomized trials of 68 different antioxidant supplements statistically showed an increase in the risk of death in the dietary supplement groups by 5% compared to the placebo pill groups..

An increase in overall mortality by 5% is a huge figure! The findings were shocking and confused the scientific community. After all, the main principle of medicine is “Do no harm!” The results showed that when individually placed in tablets of vitamins A and E, both significantly increased the risk of death. Vitamin C and selenium supplements did not affect the risk of death. But, vitamins A and E are antioxidants.

It turns out that antioxidant supplements do not do good, but rather harm.

This underlines the severity of the problem when trying to improve things by taking the pills. The dose of what is in them is much higher than that in natural products. For example, wheat germ has a high concentration of vitamin E, but tablets contain tens of times more vitamin E. In medicine, the paradigm “if a little is good, more will be even better” practically never works.

For example, water is good, right? But drinking too much water in a relatively short time can be fatal..

Vegetables that are associated with a lower risk of disease in addition to antioxidants contain many other substances. The combination of all these substances and may be the key to their effectiveness and cannot be imitated by the single “active ingredients” that can be put into a tablet.


High levels of a compound called homocysteine ​​have been found in the blood of people with Alzheimer’s. It was concluded that people with higher homocysteine ​​levels are at increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Taking folate and vitamin B-12 lowered homocysteine ​​levels in the body, which has led to the hypothesis that taking B vitamins may reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

The new analysis [8] was carried out in collaboration with the International Research Group at the University of Oxford. The researchers collected data from 11 randomized clinical trials involving 22,000 people that compared the effects of B vitamins on cognitive function in the elderly versus placebo. Participants receiving B vitamins achieved a reduction in blood homocysteine ​​levels of about 25%.

However, this did not affect their cognitive function in any way..

When evaluating the effect on global cognitive function and mental processes such as memory, speed, or work function, there was no difference between those who received the B vitamins and those who received a placebo. “It would be very nice if we could find something else,” says Dr. Robert Clark of the University of Oxford, who led the work. “Our research brings the debate to an end: taking folate and vitamin B-12, unfortunately, will not prevent Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease or stroke. About 25-30% of adults take multivitamins with the idea that they are good for the heart and brain, but the evidence for this simply does not exist. It is much better to eat more fruits and vegetables, avoid high consumption of red meat, high calories and balance your diet. “.


Dietary supplements are heavily advertised as a means of promoting health. However, the 2015 American Association for Cancer Research forum cited data showing that dietary supplements can actually increase the risk.

“We’re not sure why this is happening at the molecular level, but experience shows that people who take more supplements than necessary tend to have a higher risk of developing cancer,” explains Tim Byers, MD. , professor and associate director of cancer prevention at the University of Colorado Cancer Center.

Research started 20 years ago assumed that people who ate more fruits and vegetables tended to have less cancer. Researchers including Byers wanted to monitor the effect of supplementation with vitamins and minerals on lowering cancer risk [9].

“When we first tested dietary supplements in animal models, we found the results to be promising,” says Byers. “And we moved on to human studies. We studied thousands of patients who took dietary supplements or placebo. But, we have found that supplements are not actually beneficial to health.

People who took the vitamins actually got more cancers, ”Byers explains..

A study of the effects of beta-carotene supplementation showed that taking the extra dose increased the risk of both lung cancer and heart disease by 20%. Folic acid, which is believed to reduce the number of polyps in the colon, actually increased the number in another study. Byers says vitamin supplements are unnecessary: ​​”In the end we found that taking extra vitamins and minerals did more harm than good.”.

According to a study [10] of more than 77,000 people, vitamin supplements do not protect against lung cancer. They may even increase the risk of developing it..

“Our study of supplemental multivitamins, vitamin C, vitamin E, and folate provided no evidence to reduce the risk of lung cancer,” wrote study author Christopher Slator, MD, of the University of Washington, Seattle. Vitamin E supplementation has been associated with a slight increased risk of lung cancer. “.

Dr. Slator and colleagues monitored 77,126 men and women 50 to 76 years old in Washington State in the Vital (Vitamins and Lifestyle) Study, determining the rate of lung cancer development over four years in relation to current and previous vitamin intake, smoking, and other demographic and medical factors.

“In contrast to the often perceived benefit or at least no harm, vitamin E supplements have been associated with an increased risk of lung cancer,” Slator said..

The increased risk corresponded to a 7% increase per 100 mg / day. “This risk translates into a 28% increased risk of lung cancer at a dose of 400 mg / day for ten years,” Slator wrote. The risk was highest in smokers. These findings have broad public health implications given the high numbers of current and former smokers and the widespread use of vitamin supplements..


The artificial antioxidant accelerates the spread of skin cancer in mice, raising questions about its safety in humans, researchers say [11].

The antioxidant, N-acetylcysteine, is used to facilitate sputum production in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), said senior study author Martin Bergo, a professor at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden. This antioxidant is also used as a dietary supplement to reduce muscle damage during exercise, burn fat, and prevent fatigue..

But water supplemented with N-acetylcysteine ​​accelerated the metastasis of melanoma (a potentially fatal skin cancer) in laboratory mice. The antioxidant had no effect on the size of the tumors, but increased the migration and invasion of tumors to other parts of the body. The research report was published in the journal Science of Translational Medicine.

N-acetylcysteine ​​has been linked to a doubling of lymph node tumors in mice that drank water with its supplements, compared to a group of animals that drank plain water.

Previously, the same research group reported that certain antioxidants could stimulate lung tumor growth in mice..

“For people at increased risk of developing this cancer, this means that taking dietary supplements containing antioxidants can inadvertently accelerate the progression of small tumors or precancerous conditions,” Bergo said..

Bergo said his team decided to focus on N-acetylcysteine ​​as it is an antioxidant that dissolves quickly in water, making it easier to feed laboratory mice with it..

In addition, the researchers performed laboratory tests on human melanoma cells using N-acetylcysteine ​​and vitamin E. Both antioxidants gave similar results, increasing the ability of cancer cells to migrate to other cells. Researchers recommend people with cancer or high risk of cancer avoid antioxidant supplements.


According to a study published in JAMA, patients with diabetic nephropathy (kidney disease caused by diabetes mellitus) who received high doses of B vitamins experienced a faster decline in kidney function and a higher incidence of heart attacks and strokes than patients. receiving placebo.

“In addition to the personal woes of patients, the social burden of diabetic nephropathy is huge annual medical costs exceeding $ 10 billion. Despite effective treatments that slow the progression of the disease, it develops in about 40% of the approximately 21 million people with diabetes in the United States. New approaches to the treatment of this problem are urgently needed, “the authors write..

According to the background information of this study report, several previous observational studies have shown a significant association between high blood homocysteine ​​concentrations and the risk of developing diabetic nephropathy, retinopathy, and vascular diseases, including myocardial infarction and stroke. Vitamin therapy (with folate, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12) has been suggested to lower homocysteine ​​concentrations.

Researchers at the University of Western Ontario and Robarts Research Institute conducted a study [12] to investigate whether this vitamin therapy could slow the progression of diabetic nephropathy and prevent vascular events in 238 patients with type 1 or 2 diabetes. five university health centers in Canada between May 2001 and July 2007. Each of the participants was under medical supervision for an average of 32 months. Patients received either a placebo or one of the B vitamins in tablets: * folic acid (2.5 mg / day), * vitamin B6 (25 mg / day) * vitamin B12 (1 mg / day).

“Given the scale of clinical trials that have shown no benefit, and our study showing harm, it would be prudent to discourage the use of high doses of B vitamins as a means of lowering homocysteine ​​levels,” the authors conclude..


Vitamin B12 supplementation leads to acne, but the mechanism of this effect has remained unexplored. A new study has shown a clear link between changes in the skin microbiota and vitamin B12, which causes inflammation and pathology [13].


Assuming Americans spend billions of dollars annually on nutritional supplements, researchers analyzed popular eye vitamins to determine how well their advertising claims fit with scientific evidence..

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of blindness in the elderly in the United States. It is a deterioration of the retina, which is the central part of the retina and allows the eye to see fine details clearly. Recommended treatment for AMD at certain stages of the disease includes dietary supplements. The benchmark was the Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS), which discovered in 2001 that dietary supplements containing high doses of antioxidants and zinc can slow the deterioration of AMD in those with early AMD.

A follow-up study, which was completed in 2011 (AREDS2), determined that the formula is still effective when one ingredient, beta-carotene (a form of vitamin A), is replaced with other substances, lutein and zeaxanthin. Beta-carotene has been replaced in AREDS2 due to the association of beta-carotene with an increased risk of lung cancer in smokers. Research has sparked a surge in sales of “eye” supplements that are marketed as “containing AREDS or AREDS2 ingredients.”.

To test whether the dietary supplements matched the research, scientists compared ingredients from top-selling brands with precise formulas that have proven effective in AREDS and AREDS2. The study [14] involved experts from Yale New Haven Hospital, Pennsylvania State College of Medicine Hospital, Providence Medical Center, and Brown University School of Medicine. They controlled 11 brands of the 2011-12 market.

They found that although all of the dietary supplements contained ingredients from the AREDS or AREDS2 formula: • only four dietary supplements contained the exact dose of AREDS or AREDS2 ingredients; • other dietary supplements, contained underestimated doses of AREDS or AREDS2 ingredients; • four dietary supplements included additional vitamins, minerals and herbal extracts that are not part of the AREDS or AREDS2 formula.

That said, all 11 brands had promotional materials claiming to “support,” “protect,” “help,” and “improve” vision and eye health. None of the instructions for use indicated that such dietary supplements were effective only in people with the initial stage of AMD. In addition, the package insert did not clarify that there is currently insufficient evidence to support the use of nutritional supplements for the prevention of AMD or cataracts..

“Patients are misled into buying supplements that may not bring the desired results,” said study first author Prof Jennifer J. Yong..

According to the (DSHEA) Act of 1994, dietary supplements are something that is not evaluated for effectiveness or safety by health regulators. In addition, for the admission of dietary supplements for sale, even FDA approval is not required..

“We believe antioxidants are good for us because they protect cells from oxidative stress that can harm our genes. However, our bodies have an innate ability to deal with such stress. Recent research shows that the body has its own stress responses that prevent damage to our DNA.

But, I am afraid that the delicate balance in our cells can be upset if we supplement our diet with vitamin supplements, ”says Hilde Nielsen, head of the research group at the Center for Biotechnology at the University of Oslo..

Our DNA (the genetic code that makes us who we are) is constantly damaged. In a hundred trillion cells in our body, up to 200,000 cases of DNA damage occur every day. They can be caused by smoking, stress, pathogens or ultraviolet radiation, but the main sources of this damage are the body’s natural life-sustaining processes..

Is DNA damage being “repaired” to help us stay healthy and live a long life? To answer this question, Hilde Nielsen and her research team began “collaborating” with a small (only 1 mm long) organism of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans). These are ordinary roundworms that live only 25 days, but have 20,000 genes (we humans are only a couple thousand more).

“FROM. Elegans is a fantastically interesting object because we can change its inherited properties. We can increase their ability to repair DNA damage, or we can eliminate this possibility entirely from them.

We can also control what happens when DNA damage is not corrected in several hundred nematode specimens during their lifespan, ”says Nielsen..

Most often, DNA damage is repaired by “cutting out” and replacing part of the damaged area or even a large fragment. The researchers believed that individuals who were deprived of the opportunity to repair DNA damage, the aging process proceeds much faster than usual. This is because damage builds up and prevents cells from producing the proteins they need to function properly.

Most researchers believed this was the case, but Hilde Nielsen doubts this..

One of the objects studied by the researchers had a somewhat shorter lifespan. On average, these mutants lived three days less than usual. Translated into human age, this means that they died at the age of 60, not 70. “We were surprised when we saw that these mutants do not accumulate DNA damage. On the contrary: they have less DNA damage.

This is because these little nematodes are able to release their own antioxidant defenses. It turns out that nature uses such a strategy to minimize the negative consequences of the impossibility of repairing DNA damage. “.

Hilde Nielsen and her colleagues showed for the first time that the aging situation is under active genetic control and is not the cause of passive accumulation of damage in DNA, as was previously thought..

“This makes it possible to manipulate these processes. And that’s exactly what we did: we restored the normal lifespan of the short-lived mutants by removing some of the proteins to repair the damage. Consequently, the accumulation of damage cannot be the cause of aging, since there is no reason to assume that mutants, having no other alternative ways of repairing its DNA, are less susceptible to damage.

There must be something else, ”says Nielsen.

Researchers [15] went further and learned that this “something” is actually “repair proteins” that inhibit damage that they are unable to repair completely. The consequence is that they set up barriers – “blockages”. This triggers a cascade of signals that “reprogram” the entire cell.

“We must remember that most likely the purpose of DNA repair is to ensure that we produce healthy offspring, rather than live as long as possible beyond our reproductive age. The mutants’ initiation of a survival response that enhances antioxidant defenses means that the lack of the ability to repair DNA has less impact on our reproduction. For the species as a whole, it is a small price to pay for some individuals to have a short lifespan, ”says Nielsen..

They discovered an active process inside cells, the researchers call “reprogramming.” “We’ve discovered a number of proteins that trigger this reprogramming. The process has the same effect as reducing calorie intake, which we know helps to increase lifespan in many species. In other words, there are two paths to long life.

If we activate both of these modes in our nematodes, we can quadruple their normal lifespan, ”says Nielsen..

“The balance between oxidants and antioxidants is critical to our physiology, but this balance varies from one person to another. This is why I am starting to worry about synthetic antioxidants. Our cells use this delicate balance to create the best possible conditions for themselves, and it is specially adapted for each of us.

When we take supplements of antioxidants such as vitamins C and E, we can disrupt this balance, “warns Nielsen..

“It sounds intuitively correct that consuming substances that can prevent the accumulation of damage can be beneficial to us. This is why so many of us supplement our diet with vitamins. But, the results of our research indicate that we can do a lot of harm to ourselves. Medicine recommends striving to have a good diet instead.

I support this point of view. It is much safer for us to get our vitamins through the food we eat, not through the pills, ”says Hilde Nielsen.

Research published in February 2009 in the journal Archives of Pediatrics & adolescent medicine ”showed that most healthy children and adolescents in the United States take daily vitamin and mineral supplements that they do not need.

Doctors analyzed data from 10,828 children aged 2-17 for the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) in 1999-2004..

“Many children and adolescents who take vitamin supplements on a daily basis do not need to take them because they are getting adequate nutrition from the foods they eat,” said Ulfat Sheikh, lead author of the study and assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of California..

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) does not recommend the use of vitamins in healthy children over 1 year of age [16].

Dietary supplements in ambulance reports.

An advertisement for dietary supplements claims that these are natural, healthy, and absolutely safe substances. However, dietary supplements annually send about 23,000 Americans to the emergency hospital, according to a federal study [17].

Reliable information about the serious side effects of dietary supplements is almost impossible to find. Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the FDA looked at emergency call records from 2004 to 2013 in 63 hospitals (enough to consider the study nationally representative). Based on the 3,667 cases they identified, they concluded that, globally, this translates into approximately 23,000 annual emergency calls for supplemental health problems and 2,154 annual hospitalizations..

The report was published in October 2015 in the New England Journal of Medicine. Here are some details:

* The market is overflowing with pills and powders. The number of nutritional supplements has skyrocketed from about 4,000 in 1994 to more than 55,000 in 2012, the report says..

* Roughly half of all American adults say they have used at least one supplement in the past month – most commonly vitamins.

* Supplements do not go through FDA approval before they go on sale. Although the FDA can remove an item from the market if it is deemed unsafe.

* Foods for weight loss or increased energy were the most significant group of dietary supplements leading to emergency calls. They are the cause of 72% of problems associated with chest pain, irregular or excessive heartbeat They are also the culprit in more than 50% of clinic visits by patients aged 25 to 34.

* Supplements for bodybuilding and improving sexual function have also become leaders in the causes of heart disease in those who call an ambulance. Among the “leaders”: • B6 (pyridoxine) and nicotinic acid, • Beta-carotene, especially in smokers and ex-smokers • Vitamins A and E.

On this “draw the line.” Draw your own conclusions. But, as the (rumored) say in the CIA: “Speak the truth and only the truth. Never tell the whole truth. ” So it is to me: there is still something to say about vitamins, in particular, about vitamin D. But more about that next time.

All health!

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