Friday, April 18, 2008

Rebuttal to the Recent FLAWED Report that Antioxidants Shorten Lifespan

Here we go again. It was predicted and expected ....more "bad news" for those taking supplements in the form of a recent "study" indicating that vitamins (antioxidants) may decrease your lifespan. ....Well, not so fast! I have included an article from Life Extension Foundation (see below) addressing the flawed analysis of this study ...and more importantly the lack of "cause and effect" between antioxidants and premature death. (What is so absurd about all this is that the opposite truly exists, ... that is, an association between antioxidants and the reduced risk of premature death.) Before I get to that, I have my own editorial.

Believe it or not, there is a war of information regarding the supplement industry and the pharmaceutical industry. This was not the first, and it will not be the last that some "study" comes out telling us that we, who take supplements, are going to die, or in this case not live as long due to taking antioxidant supplements. Our alternative is not to take any supplements, and therefore become eligible to take prescription drugs (which course, have side effects, incluing death ....over 100,000 people die each year in the U.S. alone DIRECTLY FROM TAKING PRESCRIPTION MEDICATIONS ....and this is under the supervision and management of doctors and nurses).

This is NOT the case for nutritional supplements. People are not dying of premature deaths from their nutritional supplements, ...but, somehow we accept that drugs are more "acceptable" than supplements in maintaining health. It makes no sense at all. It is true, that the formulation and amounts of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants matter .... not in their risk of death, but in regard to the true benefits they can provide. For example, there is a BIG difference between taking 60 to 120 mg of vitamin C in the ascorbic acid form, and 1300 mg per day of vitamin C in the vitamin C ascorbate form. With the first, one will do little more than prevent scurvy, whereas with the later, one may prevent the onset of chronic degenerative disease and possibly extend one's longevity.

There is a difference between taking 15 to 30 IU/day of vitamin E in the dl-alpha tocopherol form, vs. 400 to 800 IU/day of vitamin E in the mixed tocopherol (d-alpha tocopherol, gamma tocopherol, delta tocopherol) and tocotrienol formulation. The first will ....well, I'm not sure what 15 to 30 IU of vitamin E does, but I do know what the studies on using the natural mixed tocopherol form of vitamin E indicates ....less risk of many types of cancer, decreased risk of heart disease, AND decreased mortality.

In regard to extending one's lifespan, the single BEST way to increase longevity is NOT TO DIE!

I have studied the medical literature, and one of the biggest frustrations regarding studies on supplements (vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants) is that they were never meant to be taken in isolation. Supplements are meant to be taken in the proper ratios, amounts, and balance. Formulations make a difference; and most of these "reports" (meta-analyses) are comparing apples and oranges.

The authors of this latest round of anti-supplement propaganda (like prior anti-supplement reports) cherry picked their studies, leaving out some powerful studies showing a decrease in heart disease, cancer, and death from any cause. Again, if we are to live longer we must not die of a chronic degenerative disease. The studies exist, but they weren't included because it did not support the aim of this meta-analysis.

My hope is that people will not be so swayed by the sensationalism of a poorly designed and selectively biased report, or meta-analysis (summary of selected studies) that in the end will NOT hold up to true medical research scrutiny. Sometimes I believe that these researchers know that their report will not hold up to scrutiny, but in the war of information it ultimately does not matter. The damage will be done because the media has already announced the "bad news," creating doubt in the minds of the less informed, ...including the minds of many doctors who do not take the time to look at the solid studies on the benefits of supplements, but rather listen (and believe) all the information doled out to them by the pharmaceutical reps who visit their office on a daily basis.

Ladd McNamara,M.D.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Cataracts: Reduced Risk with Vitamin E, Lutein, Zeaxanthin and Grape Seed Extract

In recent study published in the Archives of Ophthalmology (Arch. Ophthalmol. 2008;126:102-9) gathered from the Women's Health Study, vitamin E and the carotenoid lutein were both found to be associated with a reduced risk of cataracts.

The Women's Health Study (WHS) was a randomized, placebo-controlled trial involving nearly 40,000 women health professionals aged 45 years and older at inception of the study in 1993.

In this recent study gathered from the WHS, the researchers assessed the antioxidant intake (from food and supplements) of 35,551 women and followed them for an average of ten years. They divided the women's intake into 5 groups, ...groups with the lowest intake, to the next highest intake, to the next highest intake, etc. When women with the highest intake of lutein/zeaxanthin (mean intake of 6.7 mg/day) were compared to the group with the lowest intake (mean of 1.2 mg/day) they found an 18% decrease in the risk of cataracts.

Similarly, when women in the highest intake group of vitamin E (mean 262 mg/day, or 390 IU/day; 1 mg alpha-tocopherol = 1.49 IU) were compared to women in the lowest intake group of vitamin E (mean 4.4 mg/day, or 6.5 IU/day), there found a 14% decrease in cataracts.

This study adds to existing observational studies that xanthophyll carotenoids lutein (and its stereo-isomer, zeaxanthin) may delay cataract formation. (BTW, in animal studies, grape seed extract has been found to reduce the formation of cataracts as well.) Lutein and zeaxanthin concentrate in the tissues of the eye, ...including the lens and retina.

Personally, I take a broad spectrum multi-antioxidant and minerals in chelated form, fish oil, grape seed extract, and additional lutein/zeaxanthin and bilberry extract supplement (for a total lutein intake of 13 mg per day, ...well above the mean intake of the top fifth group of this study). In addition, I take an additional vitamin E supplement, that has the full family of vitamin E (d-alpha tocopherol, d-gamma tocopherol, delta tocopherol, and the tocotrienols), for a combined total of 600 IU/day.

For optimal eye health of the lens and retina (macular degeneration is the number one cause of blindness after the age of 40), as well as maintaining health in a time of increasing risk of chronic degenerative disease, I recommend an optimal intake of various antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and essential fatty acids.

Ladd McNamara,M.D.