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Antioxidants Might Cause Death??

Updated on December 23, 2010

Just A Piece Of the Story

On  February 27, 2007, plastered all over the news was a "Big Vitamin Safety Alert; Antioxidant vitamins taken by tens of millions of people around the world won't lead to a longer life, and may even cause death!” Media still continues to "alert" people on vitamins and nutrients, but that one caused needless fear. Americans need to beware of reports of so-called "studies" on media networks.  A physician would not take that seriously without checking the facts of the study. 

Usually the media announces only fragments of studies without the full picture because they do not take the time to check it out, or they simply do not know how. If that study had been about a prescription drug, no doctor worth their weight in prescription pads would take it seriously. The pharmaceutical and allopathic medical communities have a double standard when it comes to vitamin supplements and holistic, natural or integrative care. The pharmaceutical industry is threatened, because prescription drugs are a multi-billion dollar a year industry. The more educated the public, the less money Big Pharma makes. Allopathic doctors receive very little education in nutrition in medical school,  It is also an area that needs continual education in order to keep up. Medical nutrition is a specialty that takes years for one to become expert. There were also major flaws left out, flaws a doctor would question if that study were about a prescription drug.


The Truth

The mentioned study was from The Cochrane Hepato-Biliary Group at Copenhagen University Hospital in Denmark. It was a study of studies on the effects of anti-oxidants A, E, Beta- Carotene and Selenium.  After analyzing sixty-eight studies they chose, involving over 232,000 people, they “found no significant effect on mortality, neither good nor bad, linked to taking antioxidants. ”  They eliminated the “lower-quality studies,” and analyzed 47 studies of 180,938 people randomly assigned to either real vitamins or placebo pills. It was not until then that they found a higher risk of death for people taking vitamins, 4 percent for those taking vitamin E, 7 percent for beta carotene and 16 percent for vitamin A.  Another omission was, “the actual cause of death in most studies was unknown !”  And yet, according to the groundbreaking 2003 medical report Death by Medicine, by Drs. Gary Null, Carolyn Dean, Martin Feldman, Debora Rasio and Dorothy Smith, 783,936 people in the United States die every year from conventional medicine mistakes.  It is common knowledge now that free radicals

Another swipe at vitamins and antioxidants is Dan Hurley in his book, Death, Lies and Politics in America’s Vitamin and Herbal Supplement Industry The illusion is actually his. He says that from 1983 to 2004 there were more than 1.5 million calls to poison control centers related to supplements and 203 reported deaths, a yearly average of  70,000 “incidents ” equaling about nine deaths per year associated with , not necessarily caused by, supplements. That last sentence should raise a flag.

Let's say that nine people did die per year from supplements.  Compare that to other reports of causes of Consumer deaths in just one year, 2004:

  • 1000 by choking on food or other household items
  •  4,833 accidental poisonings
  • 784 from bicycle accidents 4,553 motorcycles, cars 33,041.
  •  Aspirin and other over-the-counter medicines, such as Advil and Alleve (NSAIDs;
    non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), 16,500 deaths
  • Food, 5000 deaths
  • 157 deaths from elevator accidents
  • 100 die choking on a ballpoint pen

That's just consumer deaths. Are we supposed to risk nutrient deficiency because of  nine possible deaths in one year from vitamins?  Still worried about vitamins?  Do you remember ever being warned about this? I don't:

  • 106,000 deaths due to adverse reactions to FDA approved, properly prescribed, prescription drugs!  This number is probably only a percentage of the deaths from properly prescribed drugs, since the FDA relies on doctors or hospitals reporting these deaths to the FDA.  You can bet not every death is reported.

The Real Danger

According to figures reported, FDA approved drugs alone , used properly , are over ten thousand times   more deadly than supplements! Mike Adams, from says, “After all, NSAIDs (pain relievers) are sold as over-the-counter drugs, and new research has shown that NSAIDs (both prescription and over-the-counter) cause intestinal damage in as many as 70% of all users, outright killing an estimated 16,500 Americans each year from gastrointestinal bleeding.”

So why the big news flash and warning on supplements? Still not convinced of a movement by Big Pharma and the FDA?  There are serious flaws and more unanswered questions in the opening study. The questions a physician might ask, is, first, the mean age was 62. How do they come to their conclusion when the mean duration of follow-up was only 3.3 years of someone  who started taking supplements at 59 and for only 3.3 years? How old were those who died? What was the level of disease, health, nutritional status and life style of the participants?  What types of prescription drugs and doses were they on and for how long?  Were these conditions equal for all?   Hellooooo! Some of the study participants were in nursing homes! How healthy were they ? What is the chance that they were not on prescription drugs, considering the average 65 year old American is on an average of eight prescription drugs?  If so, maybe the deaths were a part of those under-reported numbers from properly prescribed prescription drugs; common things occur commonly!  Would the 4 percent who died have died anyway? Were all participants on the same OTC or prescription drugs?  How about the brand of vitamins used?  Were participants on the same ones? Were they tested for quality assurance and amounts of active ingredients?  Natural or synthetic, especially important with vitamin E? The study stated that “Some (participants) involved took “mega doses far exceeding the recommended daily amount of the compounds; others involved received normal doses.”  With that much difference, how can a study blame the supplements? There is no way "normal doses" caused anyone death!What do the study doctors consider “mega doses?” More than the RDA?  When the RDA was created in 1941, the primary goal was to prevent diseases caused by nutrient deficiencies, especially in groups such as soldiers, prisoners and schools.  The government has changed the RDA eleven times between 1941 and 1989.  The RDA for Vitamin E is 11 to 15 milligrams per day!  Studies show at least 400 to 800 milligrams per day are recommended for health and longevity.

Why We Need Antioxidants

Free radicals are molecules or atoms with unpaired electrons. Simply put, this makes loose cannon, because this configuration is highly reactive and makes the molecule or atom extremely likely to take part in a chemical reaction.  What happens when iron oxidizes? Oxidation eats through the iron until it's gone.  It's the same with oxidation from free radicals.  Usually the body can neutralize free radicals, except when overwhelmed. There are many causes of free radicals, with  passive smoke, poor eating, and pollution just a few. Antioxidants neutralize free radicals by acting as scavengers, which helps prevent cell and tissue damage that often leads to disease.

Vitamins C and E are the most well observed of the antioxidants. C detoxifies certain metals and drugs, and in high doses is thought to have anti-cancer properties. E also has many antioxidant benefits , such as anti-aging, cardiovascular health, and it maintains the integrity and function of cell membranes, to name a few.

Why vitamins, Linus,Pauling, AO & free radical

Ignorance of Vitamin E in Study

The researchers in the study also proved they do not understand what they studied. They used synthetic anti-oxidant supplements rather than natural. There is a big difference, but it seems they were totally unaware of this fact. For instance, they stated, "Antioxidant supplements are synthetic and not subjected to the same rigorous toxicity studies as other pharmaceutical agents" False! Some are synthetic and not tested, but several brands are natural and highly tested.  Synthetic E is only Alpha tocopherol, which is what they used. Natural vitamin E is made of mixed tocopherols, with alpha, beta, gamma and delta tocopherols. There are studies comparing the two that show the importance of natural Vitamin E's mixed tocopherols.

"Mixed vitamin E tocopherols vs. alpha tocopherol vitamin E alone "

"Mixed vitamin E tocopherols appear to have a stronger effect against lipid peroxidation than vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) alone. Mixed tocopherols have been found to counteract the development of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease. However, large amounts of alpha vitamin E have shown only a slight effect or none at all. A study investigated the effects of alpha vitamin E alone compared to mixed vitamin E (gamma, delta and alpha-tocopherol) on lipid peroxidation in human red blood cells induced by hydrogen peroxide. Due to the action of hydrogen peroxide, lipid peroxidation strongly increased and polyunsaturated fatty acids decreased. The culture of red blood cells with mixed tocopherols increased the tocopherol levels in a concentration-dependent manner. Alpha-tocopherol and the tocopherol mixture protected the cells from lipid peroxidation. However, the absorption of gamma and delta-tocopherol compared to alpha-tocopherol was found to be much higher in the cells. The mixture was much more potent than alpha-tocopherol alone. Thus, a combination of vitamin E (gamma, delta and alpha-tocopherol) has a strong inhibitory effect than alpha tocopherol alone on lipid peroxidation in human red blood cells."


Truth From One of the Study's Doctors

Dr. Christian Gluud, one of the doctors and authors of the study said, “most of the studies didn't reveal why those taking supplements died, but in all likelihood, what they died from is what people normally die from, maybe accelerated arthrosclerosis, maybe cancer."   Supplements are most effective for preventing disease. Their effectiveness diminishes as the severity of the disease increases. It is likely that the participants already had arthrosclerosis or cancer when they started the vitamins. By virtue of the fact that they were in nursing homes shows that they already had physiological problems.

"Experts" who reviewed the research dismissed the studies’ assertion of increased death risk and the analysis overall, saying it pooled studies that were too diverse.  “The researchers noted that they were able to assess only all-cause mortality, although it was likely that increased cancer and cardiovascular disease mortality were the main components of the increase.”  The researchers also reported that “When supplement risks from all low- and high- quality trials were pooled, there was no significant effect on mortality.”  That was never mentioned in the news!

             That conclusion, that they do not know how those people died, is just not an exciting news alert, is it?  Isn't it more likely the studies were just meant to scare you out of taking nutritional supplements, rather than the prescription drugs where the big money is?


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    • Dr. Cherie profile image

      Cherie Santasiero PhD 7 years ago from Hamburg, NY

      Hey there tmbridgeland

      You're right again. Problem is, one has to know how to descern a study; what's a good study? Who did the study? How many particepent? You know what I'm talking about. The other problem is, yeah, we need regulation on studies, but the big pharmas control government (helped ALOT to get Obama in) and the FDA, so who's going to control them????? My only hope is education. People need to educate themselves on what's really going on with studies. Want a terrific book to read? "Over Dosed America" by John Abramson, MD. Don't read it in bed; you'll get peed off. And then as far as control for why people are sicker, we're back to the same politics. Why would the fast food and pre-packaged, loaded-with-poison food industry want more people to know what it's doing to our health crisis?????

      Hey, friend, you seem like a smart guy and I like your writing style. You're also young! Go for it!!! Let me know if you want some help with info. Did you notice that, of all my hubs, you don't see ads on this one??? Hmmmm.

      Glad to hear you again. I like your hubs

      Dr. Cherie

    • tmbridgeland profile image

      tmbridgeland 7 years ago from Small Town, Illinois

      People often start taking supplements because they are not feeling well. The population is sicker, so it wouldn't be surprising if the death rate were higher. A good study would control for that.

    • GmaGoldie profile image

      Kelly Kline Burnett 7 years ago from Madison, Wisconsin

      Another excellent Hub! I love your balanced viewpoint complete with the studies and statistics.

      Water soluable vitamins different? The B's and Biotin are specifically my focus. I am B12 deficient - a hereditary item. Thanks to my maternal Grandmother whose name I use as my pen name here in Hub Pages.

    • Dr. Cherie profile image

      Cherie Santasiero PhD 7 years ago from Hamburg, NY

      Hey Kamran

      I did some more research and yes, Vitamin E does help with sexual function. Dr. Ron advises 800IU per day for people 40 and over, unless there is a contraindication.

      Thanks for the tip.

      Take care and blessings,

      Dr. Cherie

    • Kamran100 profile image

      Kamran100 7 years ago

      hey Dr. cherie!

      actually this is a good artical, so for the great sex life there is need multivitamin. Regarding sex, Vitamin E plays an important role in the production of sex hormones. It protects them from oxidation and degradation. Low vitamin E levels can cause a decline in the formation of key sex hormones and enzymes responsible for sperm production and ovarian health. Vitamin E also shows a protective effect on sperm cell membranes. Supplementation with Vitamin E can also aid in improving sperm motility. Some like to call vitamin E the "sex vitamin." It gets this name for a couple of reasons. One, vitamin E has been said to aid in the production of sex hormones, which aids in attraction, desire, and mood. Two, it prevents age and disease, which of course indirectly boosts the longevity of anyone's sexual lifestyle

      so i think its very essential for human life, also animals. thumb up!

    • Dr. Cherie profile image

      Cherie Santasiero PhD 7 years ago from Hamburg, NY

      Hello, Kamran,

      Thank you so much for reading and commenting. I appreciate that.

      It is said that vitamin e increases libido. However, I have not found much in the way of scientific evidence. If you should come across some, please let me know.

      For a great sex life, there is more than just one vitamin. There needs to be a combination of hormone testing, of all the sex hormones, and including thyroid. It is more complicated than just one thing.

      I hope you continue to enjoy my hubs. I will check out more of yours.

      Thank you and blessings!

    • Kamran100 profile image

      Kamran100 7 years ago

      very nice hub! really useful and informative especially good information about vitamin E. its very useful for sex life.

      really appreciated for this useful artical!

    • Dr. Cherie profile image

      Cherie Santasiero PhD 7 years ago from Hamburg, NY

      I'll be waiting, Mr. Nice! God bless

    • Mr Nice profile image

      Mr Nice 7 years ago from North America

      Hi Dr. Cherie,

      Thanks for following me. I was just curious that is why I mentioned about Homeopathy. I have many year's of experience in Homeopathy. I have many unfinished hubs and there is one about Vitamins too. I will let you know when I publish. Good night

    • Dr. Cherie profile image

      Cherie Santasiero PhD 7 years ago from Hamburg, NY

      Mr Nice is a perfect name for you! Thank you for taking the time to comment. I do appreciate it.

      We do use some homeopathics at Sedona Centre. If you're interested, I did a hub on The Three Basic Homeopathics for Your Medicine Cabinet.

      I'll check out Mekenzie's site too.Thanks

      I would really like to read your hub on vitamins. Please let me know. I will follow you to make sure I get it.

    • Mr Nice profile image

      Mr Nice 7 years ago from North America

      Wow Dr. Cherie,

      Both you & your husbands profiles are amazing, you have so much achievements, I am very impressed. The only degree I don't see on your your profile is of Homeopathy.

      I have an unfinished hub about use of Vitamins, whenever I publish I will let you know.

      I saw Mekenzie's business website " Vollara" I recognized them because they have the same photo.

      Thanks for sharing the information. Have a wonderful weekend.

    • Dr. Cherie profile image

      Cherie Santasiero PhD 7 years ago from Hamburg, NY

      Thanks Mekenzie. I'm going to check it out now. I'll get back.

      Ciao and take care

    • Mekenzie profile image

      Susan Ream 7 years ago from Michigan

      Dr. Cheri, what a sweet comment about encouraging words and love. Thank YOU! Just wanted to give you a link to the book I read about the studies conducted by Kansas State Universiity:

      p.s. I don't get any money for sending you to this link.. Just good scientific information.((wink)) Blessings!

    • Dr. Cherie profile image

      Cherie Santasiero PhD 7 years ago from Hamburg, NY

      Hey, Mekenzie,

      Thanks so much for commenting. Very interesting. I am going to find out more on muskedine berries and this study. I have Dr. Ron Santasiero look at most of the studies, because he knows how they've been taken, the grade, etc. But I much prefer University studies to product studies. Who ever heard of a product printing a poor outcome study on their product? HA!

      Thanks for the comment and the info. Maybe you should write a hub on it???

      Yes, God does provide everything in life we need. That includes beautiful acquaintances with whom we might share information, knowledge, experiences, helpful and encouraging words, and even love.

      Blessings to you and your family

      God bless

    • Mekenzie profile image

      Susan Ream 7 years ago from Michigan

      Awesome exposure and truths written in this hub Dr. Cherie. I appreciate you sharing your professional take on antioxidants and supplements. I discovered a juice last year made from muskedine berries which has been researched at Kansas State University.

      I started taking it and the fibromyalgia pain I experienced was GONE! The orac score is 3764 per serving.. it packs a punch! I tried to wean off it because it is expensive .. but BOOM the pain came right back. So, I am a big believer in antioxidants. oh, my mother-in-laws blood sugar stabalized and my daughter's gestational diabetes also stabalized with the Muskedine and as a bonus all of her pregnancy puffiness (not a good sign while pregnant) went away too (WHEW).

      There are so many answers for ailments which God has already provided us in nature .. thanks for being one that has found answers and continues to seek them. Blessings

    • Dr. Cherie profile image

      Cherie Santasiero PhD 7 years ago from Hamburg, NY

      Hey, Pamela,

      It will happen. There is so much more about big pharma and the FDA, that if people knew... Believe me, in the future, I will reveal more. Keep it in mind.

      Thanks for you comments. I appreciate them!

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 7 years ago from United States

      This is an excellent article and I remember hearing about this but didn't remember the details. Pharmaceutical companies have a lot of lose if we find better, healthier and cheaper ways to treat some of our illnesses.