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Scientific American - Good article on Antioxidants
Posted: 12 February 2013 11:07 AM   [ Ignore ]
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I’m not sure how many of you subscribe to or have access to Scientific American but the Jan 2013 edition has a great article on antioxidants tracing the history of the antioxidant theory as well as the current state of the evidence. The accumulated data shows a net harm from the use of antioxidants but one would never know that if your only source is the lay media or the Wizard of Oz. Unfortunately its not available online without a subscription but its well worth reading if you can get your hands on a copy. They do a good job of showing how a reasonable theory can get a life of its own even after solid scientific evidence shows it to be full of holes.

I’ve been trying to educate patients on this issue for a while and its interesting how much push back I get. The benefits of antioxidants are assumed to be medical canon by a large portion of the public and patients often consider my comments to be heresy at first. Its amazing how much time and effort it takes to deprogram them. If only there were a TV channel devoted to dispelling all the pseudoscience put out by the rest of the media. I could lock the channel on in the waiting room and it would save me a lot of time.

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Posted: 12 February 2013 12:50 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Damn, there go my blueberries and evening glass of red wine.  LOL

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Posted: 12 February 2013 01:00 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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I think the one time I saw Oz on TV he mentioned something about blueberries, but I wasn’t paying much attention. I was mesmerized by his good looks.

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Posted: 12 February 2013 01:39 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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I just read this from the mag. “Men’s Health”. Man, I thought we were on to something there but I guess not. I was eating three servings of fruit anyway including grapes. Hell, I’ll keep eating them because I like fruit. Why not. Ok, I take that back; I hate prunes!! Yuch!

http://www.menshealth.com/mhlists/antioxidant_facts/index.php

 

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Posted: 12 February 2013 01:47 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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We are not saying people should stop eating fruits and vegetables. There is good evidence that consuming these items is helpful. What the evidence is saying is that antioxidants themselves are not helpful and may in fact be harmful in some circumstances. There are many other reasons why a diet higher in fruits and vegetables may be good for us. Antioxidants are clearly no the whole story and may not even be a part of it.

As far as Men’s Health Magazine goes, I would not use it as a guide to good health. Its no better than the Ladies Home Journal and and similar pubications. We actually have a free subscription in our office. Its been coming for years. I read a the first few issues as I do with all magazines before allowing them in the waiting room and every issue since then has gone right in the trash.

[ Edited: 12 February 2013 01:50 PM by macgyver ]
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Posted: 12 February 2013 01:51 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Yes, the evidence has been building for some time that the antioxidant theory was hype and that antioxidant supplements either did nothing (e.g. resveratrol) or could be actively harmful (Vitamin E in smokers and prostate cancer, Vitamin C in chemotherapy patients). Nice to see this hitting the mainstream press. Still eating lots of fruits and veggies myself, but not jumping on the supplement bandwagon.

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Posted: 12 February 2013 03:06 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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the Vitamin E in prostate cancer has actually been a good teaching moment that I often use to explain to patients why they should not be checking their Vitamin D levels and taking huge supplements to get into the normal range. The Vitamin E story is a good parallel. 20 years ago when all we had were retrospective studies lots of men started taking vitamin E to reduce their risk of prostate cancer. Now that we have good prospective double blind studies it is clear that Vit E actually increases the risk of prostate cancer.

Vit D is in much the same position today. There are lots of claims based on retrospective studies and not a single double blind prospective study showing any benefit, yet patients and even doctors are recommending a course of action ( checking their levels and if they are low they are taking up to 50,000 units of Vit D daily) that is not based on any good science at all. We may well find out in years to come that this caused more harm than good.

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Posted: 12 February 2013 04:24 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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As far as Men’s Health Magazine goes, I would not use it as a guide to good health. Its no better than the Ladies Home Journal and and similar pubications. We actually have a free subscription in our office. Its been coming for years. I read a the first few issues as I do with all magazines before allowing them in the waiting room and every issue since then has gone right in the trash.


Actually, I don’t read the mag and never have, I just used the article (which I did read) to illustrate the antioxident myth. What I wonder is what role genetics plays in how healthy we stay in our, and I hesitate to use the term, declining years. I know a lot depends on how we treated our bods when we were stupid young adults believing in our own immortality, but does our longevity depend mainly on our genetic backgrounds? And as to supplements, my doc said no, just eat a healthy diet, exercise and stay involved in life. Well, two out of three for me. But as soon as the weather breaks, back on the bike.

 

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Posted: 12 February 2013 08:35 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Interesting - I haven’t gotten to that article yet although I do enjoy me a good Scientific American read from time to time.

Although, I never have gone out of my way to get extra antioxidants, I had thought there was something to ‘em. hmmm

Because there’s so much crap information out there, this is why it often pays to be conservative. There’s no way to double-check the veracity of every bit of new information.

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Posted: 12 February 2013 08:38 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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macgyver - 12 February 2013 11:07 AM

I’m not sure how many of you subscribe to or have access to Scientific American but the Jan 2013 edition has a great article on antioxidants tracing the history of the antioxidant theory as well as the current state of the evidence. The accumulated data shows a net harm from the use of antioxidants but one would never know that if your only source is the lay media or the Wizard of Oz. Unfortunately its not available online without a subscription but its well worth reading if you can get your hands on a copy. They do a good job of showing how a reasonable theory can get a life of its own even after solid scientific evidence shows it to be full of holes.

I’ve been trying to educate patients on this issue for a while and its interesting how much push back I get. The benefits of antioxidants are assumed to be medical canon by a large portion of the public and patients often consider my comments to be heresy at first. Its amazing how much time and effort it takes to deprogram them. If only there were a TV channel devoted to dispelling all the pseudoscience put out by the rest of the media. I could lock the channel on in the waiting room and it would save me a lot of time.

Interesting.  i’m usually skeptical of popular medical claims. What’s the word on fish oil supplements? Friends swear by them.

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Posted: 12 February 2013 09:27 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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I’m just plain anti supplement for healthy people. Don’t take them, never have. Nor have I ever given any to my children. I just encourage well rounded diets.

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Posted: 12 February 2013 09:55 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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If only there were a TV channel devoted to dispelling all the pseudoscience put out by the rest of the media.

How about just the bloody adverts? That’s not the whole of the problem, but it would be a good start.

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Posted: 13 February 2013 05:29 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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If only there were a TV channel devoted to dispelling all the pseudoscience put out by the rest of the media.

How about just the bloody adverts? That’s not the whole of the problem, but it would be a good start.


Yeah, they could list the endless disclaimers you hear on the TV when pitching the most recent cure all drug. Just listening to them scares the crap out of me. Who would take any of these nostrums with such potentially lethal side effects? “Don’t take blah blah if you’re ... .” no wonder people like homeopathic drugs; they have no side effects!


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Posted: 13 February 2013 07:46 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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Lois - 12 February 2013 08:38 PM
macgyver - 12 February 2013 11:07 AM

I’m not sure how many of you subscribe to or have access to Scientific American but the Jan 2013 edition has a great article on antioxidants tracing the history of the antioxidant theory as well as the current state of the evidence. The accumulated data shows a net harm from the use of antioxidants but one would never know that if your only source is the lay media or the Wizard of Oz. Unfortunately its not available online without a subscription but its well worth reading if you can get your hands on a copy. They do a good job of showing how a reasonable theory can get a life of its own even after solid scientific evidence shows it to be full of holes.

I’ve been trying to educate patients on this issue for a while and its interesting how much push back I get. The benefits of antioxidants are assumed to be medical canon by a large portion of the public and patients often consider my comments to be heresy at first. Its amazing how much time and effort it takes to deprogram them. If only there were a TV channel devoted to dispelling all the pseudoscience put out by the rest of the media. I could lock the channel on in the waiting room and it would save me a lot of time.

Interesting.  i’m usually skeptical of popular medical claims. What’s the word on fish oil supplements? Friends swear by them.

It all depends on what your friend is swearing about. Fish oil is another example of a small bit of truth begin blown way out of proportion. Among the retired population it is spoken of as though it were the fountain of youth. Fish Oil may be associated with a reduction in cardiovascular diseases such as stroke and heart attack ( This is a good review article if you are interested) although most experts still recommend getting the necessary fish oil by actually eating fish rather than consuming supplements.

The main reason a lot of people take fish oil these days is for joint pains. While there is some evidence that omega 3 fish oils may be helpful for rheumatoid arthritis there is no good evidence that it helps for osteoarthritis which is the type of arthritis that most people actually have. These are two entirely different diseases with very different mechanisms so there is no reason to suspect that a treatment would work for one just because it works for the other. in the case of Fish oil the studies seem to show just that.

The fact that a supplement does not work for a particular disease never stops people form swearing by them though. Glucosamine has been shown conclusively to be no better than placebo in treating osteoarthritis and yet I see patients swear by it all the time.

Edit: Addendum: I meant to include a more recent reference regarding the use of Omega 3’s in cardiovascular disease. unfortunately many recent articles are only available in abstract form but just to include one that is less than 10 years old you may want to read this brief abstract.

[ Edited: 13 February 2013 09:33 AM by macgyver ]
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Posted: 13 February 2013 08:20 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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asanta - 12 February 2013 09:27 PM

I’m just plain anti supplement for healthy people. Don’t take them, never have. Nor have I ever given any to my children. I just encourage well rounded diets.

Perfect advice. Its amazing that with such a paucity of evidence people are willing to spend billions for useless supplements yet it is so difficult to get them to eat a healthy diet which is much less expensive and far likelier to keep them healthy.

Obviously its not a mystery. Its much easier to pop a pill that washes away the guilt of eating that piece of chocolate cake but sadly it doesn’t work that way.

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Posted: 13 February 2013 06:49 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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Quoting Macgyver:

Vitamin E in prostate cancer has actually been a good teaching moment

.  Hey, I take a vitamin E pill about once a week (I bought a bottle years ago, and I refuse to throw it out and waste money), and I just had my latest PSA run.  It was 0.16 which is extremely low. See, more alternative medicine reasoning. smile

Of course I also had my prostate radiated years ago, and it’s so small the urologist can hardly feel it.  LOL

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