Not All Antioxidants Prevent Cancer

October 1, 2004

The Cochrane Institution is very well-respected for its objective consideration of medical issues. The last report from The Lancet today does not actually reveal anything truly new, despite a very useful summary of results from earlier prevention studies made with antioxidants. The results are listed after each antioxidant and after each type of cancer in the gastrointestinal tract.

The good news is that it looks as if selenium may very effectively prevent cancer diseases in the gastrointestinal region, as selenium both halves the frequency of cancer as well as the rate of death in the group of people taking selenium compared with the group taking placebo.

The disappointing news is that certain other antioxidants do not have any cancer-preventive effect in the studies mentioned and in some cases they even have harmful effects – mainly attributed to beta-carotene. This is a well-known fact.

The authors are inclined to think that the ones who might be harmed by antioxidants are people who are not very strained by the harmful free radicals in the first place. However, the authors will not warn against taking moderate doses of antioxidants or eating fruits and vegetables, and they thereby recognize the importance of getting moderate amounts of these antioxidants.

The study should be a memento for the authorities who prevent the public from being informed with fair and useful information on effects as well as side effects of dietary supplements. This censorship conceals positive as well as negative research results to the consumer who is left only to pure speculation about the use and dosage of the antioxidants which could be very beneficial if used correctly.

Antioxidants prevent atherosclerosis with great probability, but, naturally, this must happen before the atherosclerosis is far advanced. Based on his own research, the Californian Nobel Prize Winner Louis Ignarro, one of the world’s leading experts in vascular surgery, has recently in very clear terms encouraged anyone who want to avoid having blood clots to take supplements of vitamin C and -E.

In the last three months alone, the Vitality Council have posted at least six press releases about new scientific research regarding antioxidants; all involving important – in some cases essential – new knowledge from the leading research centres around the world.

By: Vitality Council

Goran Bjelakovic, Dimitrinka Nikolova, Rosa G Simonetti, Christian Gluud Antioxidant supplements for prevention of gastrointestinal cancers: a systematic review and meta-analysis Lancet 2004; 364: 1219-28.

Related articles:
Vitamin E or False Indication of Goods – 12-11-04 09:15
Biased Cochrane Study – 07-10-04 12:00
A Dangerous Cocktail – 03-10-04 12:00

Pregnant Women Addicted to Alcohol Should Take Antioxidants

August 30, 2004

Every year, about a hundred children, who are severely damaged by their mother’s alcohol abuse, are born in Denmark. These children, born with the so called foetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), suffer from mental retardation, decreased growth, heart failure, striking malformations of their face, arms, and legs, and also suffer cardiac malformations.

Researchers at a centre for alcohol studies at the University of North Carolina now believe that some of these malformations can be avoided if pregnant women with an incontrollable alcohol consumption receive an antioxidant supplement, e.g. vitamin E. The viewpoint is that if the mothers are not capable of holding back – and this, of course, is the exact problem of alcoholics, it would be better to try to reduce the damages rather than making impossible demands.

The information is based on studies with foetal mice who were exposed to alcohol. It turned out that the nervous cells of the foetuses which are easily damaged by alcohol is partly protected by the antioxidant SOD. This indicates that the damages are caused by the formation of so-called free radicals and the researchers at the centre have already established that vitamin E, which is also an antioxidant, reduces these damages.

In the actual study, the mice were born with significantly less malformed limbs when they were protected by SOD. Based on this, the conductor of the study, professor Kathleen K. Sulik claimed that it would be “wonderful” if pregnant women with alcohol problems could be persuaded into taking vitamin supplements.

The number of babies who are born with more discrete alcohol damages is not known. An estimated consumption of only one drink a day can increase the risk of abortion and result in growth retardation of several hundred grams while the baby is still in its mother’s womb.

By: Vitality Council

1. Protection from ethanol-induced limb malformations by the superoxide dismutase/catalase mimetic, EUK-134. Chen SY, Dehart DB, Sulik KK. FASEB J. 2004.
2. Graviditet og alkohol [Pregnancy and alcohol]. Sundhedsstyrelsen 1999.

The First Table of the Antioxidant Content of Food

August 12, 2004

Because of the growing interest in antioxidants, two scientific institutions under the American Ministry of Agriculture have prepaired the first extensive table of antioxidants in the diet.

The growing interest in antioxidants has made two scientific institutions under the American Ministry of Agriculture compile the first comprehensive table of the antioxidant content of food.

The reason for this is the increasing belief in antioxidants protecting against atherosclerosis, cancer, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, old age blindness – and for that matter ageing in general. The latest news is that people who develop oesophageal and gastric cancer generally get significantly less dietary antioxidants than others.

The new table has required an enormous amount of laboratory work and comprises 100 foodstuffs from the vegetable kingdom which, as we know, are the main source of dietary antioxidants. Not only does it show which foodstuffs contain the most antioxidants, it also points out the one with the fewest antioxidants. The type of antioxidants (vitamin E or -C, phenols, carotenoids) is not specified – only the total effect.

Among berries and fruits, the most antioxidants can be found in cranberry, blackcurrants, raspberry, red apples, prunes, and plums. By contrast, bananas, kiwis, mangoes, watermelons, and pineapples are quite poor sources.

In the vegetable group, artichoke is number one, but also dried beans, onions, cabbage, peppers, spinach, and boiled potatoes are good sources of antioxidants, while salad (particularly Iceberg salad), green peas, and raw tomatoes contain significantly less antioxidants. At the bottom is cucumbers with a very low content of antioxidants.

90% of the antioxidants are water-soluble while the rest are fat-soluble and have other properties. It is difficult to get enough of these through the diet but they are present in nuts, oatmeal, avocadoes, broccoli, and artichokes.

Incredibly rich sources of fat-soluble vitamins are the spices cinnamon and (particularly) clove, followed by oregano and basil quite a way down the list. Even small amounts of these spices can have important effects. Chocolate also provides a decent supplement.

Compared to vegetables, berry, fruits, and nuts, cereals such as cornflakes and white bread contain only few antioxidants. People who live on a diet of bread and meat without many spices, who have a traditional breakfast, rarely get other kinds of fruits than bananas, and stick to Iceberg salad with cucumber and tomato will not get many dietary antioxidants!

By: Vitality Council

Xainli Wu, Gary R Beecher, Joanne Holden et al. Lipophilic and hydrophilic antioxidant capacities of common foods in the United States. J Agric. Food Chem. 2004;52:4026-37.

The Role of Antioxidants May Have To Be Reassessed

February 27, 2004

British scientists have discovered that it is enzymes and not antioxidants that are the active factor, when white blood cells attack bacteria.

Free radicals are aggressive molecules that are capable of destroying the structure of other molecules. For example, the body uses free radicals to cut large molecules into pieces and build complex protein structures. So far so good.

But an abundance of free radicals has been shown to be able to damage the body due to the deterioration (oxidation) of certain molecules, such as LDL cholesterol, which then becomes dangerous because it causes arteriosclerosis in its rancid (oxidized) form.

In order to slow down this harmful oxidation, we form the so-called antioxidants. These are also found in our diet and in several dietary supplements. For example, vitamins C and E are such antioxidants.

However, a British research team has investigated the reactions that occur in the white blood cells when these attack bacteria. And they found that free radicals did not play a role, but rather that it was enzymes that the white blood cells use to attack and destroy bacteria.

Until now, it has been believed that the white blood cells used free radicals, and therefore people have been reluctant to use excessive doses of antioxidants, because it was believed that this would neutralize the white blood cells’ free radicals, so that they could not fight bacteria.

The new theory may explain why even large doses of antioxidants have not shown an inhibitory effect on the antibacterial effect of the white blood cells.

A large number of questions now remain, including the scientifically documented inhibitory effect on the occurrence of cancer and cardiovascular diseases.

There is no doubt that there will be renewed debate about this every time we see new research in this very exciting area. – Also because opinions are divided. But one thing is theory, another is practice.

We must remember that the knowledge of medical science today is wrong. All the history of science has taught us that. In 100 years, our current theories will be replaced by new ones, and people will smile at the official knowledge of today.

We must therefore be careful, and above all let ourselves be guided by the large clinical studies. The theories must then try to explain these results.

By: Vitality Council

Nature, vol 427;6977:853.

Press Release from the Danish Society for Orthomolecular Medicine (DSOM)

November 12, 2002

The Danish Society for Orthomolecular Medicine (DSOM):
Rumours that antioxidants should have no general effect on secondary prevention of heart disease originates from The Heart Protection Study published in July 2002 in the magazine The Lancet. The study was financed by e.g. the pharmaceutical companies Merck & Co. and Roche Vitamins.

The purpose of the study was, among others, to investigate Merck’s cholesterol lowering drug Zocor’s effect on various parameters such as blood clots in the heart and heart disease, etc. The study included 20,536 high-risk patients – ie. patients with known cardiovascular disease or dispositions for this – eg. diabetes.

The patients were randomized to 4 groups, of which 5000 patients received 600 mg vitamin E, 250 mg Vitamin C and 20 mg betacarotene. 5000 patients received both Zocor and vitamins. 5000 patients received Zocor only and 5,000 patients served as a joint control group. This means that the part of the study containing the vitamin group plus a joint control group comprised 10,000 people and not 20,536 persons as stated elsewhere.

Not surprisingly, the main result of the study showed that Zocor had a positive effect even at very low cholesterol values, which undoubtedly significantly increases the indication range for Zocor.

However, there are several criticisms, apart from the fact that the number of trial participants is exaggerated:

  • Dosage of vitamin E and vitamin C are not proportional to each other. The two vitamins are closely linked in the antioxidant protection of the cell. If there is an excess of one vitamin, it can have a pro-oxidant effect.
  • One will usually not give more than 100 – 200 mg of Vitamin E. Vitamin C should be given several times a day or as a prolonged-release preparation.
  • Vitamin C, as a single dose in a dose of 250 mg will only have an effect for a few hours. The half-life of vitamin C is approx. 4 hours, i.e. that from a daily dose alone you can not expect an effect at all – rather the opposite.
  • Beta-carotene has previously been tried alone in a major trial for lung cancer and smokers. Here, it appeared that this vitamin had a prooxidant effect with a prevalence of lung cancer in smokers as a result. The Heart Protection Study has not been able to confirm such an effect of an incorrectly unbalanced dosage.

The results of the study also coincide with the results found in the HOPE study, namely that there was no secondary preventive effect when consuming individual vitamins.

  • You can not study the effect of individual vitamins on diseases that have taken decades to develop. Vitamins act as co-factors and as antioxidants, they are involved in a complicated interaction with the body’s own enzymatic antioxidants in a way that we do not yet fully understand.
  • Individual vitamins or random combinations of two or three individual vitamins should not be perceived as a medicine that cures a disorder in the traditional sense, but as a method that can strengthen the body’s own antioxidant defenses.
  • You cannot simplify and define 3 different vitamins in an illogical mutual dosage for antioxidants generally. The antioxidant system reduces oxidized molecules. This is done according to the thermodynamic laws. The individual steps in this process, of which there are many, depend on the redox potential of the individual molecule. For example, urate is part of this chain. Urate is not an antioxidant in the traditional sense in everyday speech but possesses antioxidant properties just like albumin. A generalization is therefore completely incorrect.
  • The individual may have several or individual nutrient deficiencies. It is therefore not correct to study the effect of individual vitamins on chronic diseases.

Only in the last year has it become common knowledge that a substance such as Homocysteine (indicator of low B vitamins) has the greatest significance for risk and heart disease.

The content of the B vitamins: B12, B6, and folic acid in our food has decreased significantly since the Danish Ministry of Food began systematic studies of these in 1993. Thus 24% to 50% of the male population is at risk of deficiency diseases. Despite the private Nutrition Council’s stubborn adherence to the opposite, the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries in Denmark is aware of this, but states that they are simply keeping an eye on developments.

The iron content of e.g. oatmeal has been reduced by 10% within just the last 5 years. The website of the British Ministry of Agriculture reports a 50% drop in selenium intake compared to 1983 and today.


By: Per Tork Larsen, M.D., DSOM

(No references)

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– See also betacarotene, Vitamin B6, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Coenzyme Q10, Selenium and Zinc.


Joseph E. Pizzorno Jr., Michael T. Murrey & Melvyn R. Werbach.