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Food for thought: Antioxidants might increase mortality

That’s right. Treatment with beta-carotene, vitamin A, and vitamin E might increase mortality. The potential roles of vitamin C and selenium on mortality need further study.

These are the findings from the latest literature review and analysis published in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

The Cochrane Hepato-Biliary Group reviewed 68 randomized trials of more than 200,000 participants in 385 publications.

A few statistical turns later, they came to their conclusion.

Prof. Goran Bjelakovic, from Copenhagen University Hospital’s Center for Clinical Intervention Research, and lead author states, “Our findings contradict the findings of observational studies, claiming that antioxidants improve health. Considering that 10% to 20% of the adult population (80-160 million people) in North America and Europe may consume the assessed supplements, the public health consequences may be substantial.”

On the other hand, Dr. Meir Stampfer, a professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health who was not connected to the meta-analysis, told the Associated Press that the studies reviewed were too different to be able to pool them together.

In an article in he says, “This study does not advance our understanding, and could easily lead to misinterpretation of the data.”

Maybe so, but following publication of an earlier study where it was concluded that “400 IU/day or higher of vitamin E supplements may increase all-cause mortality and should be avoided,” sales of vitamin E declined.

JAMA is a powerful podium, and the same thing (at least short-term) is likely to happen again.

2/28/07 09:07 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.