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Posted February 21, 2017: by Bill Sardi
Scientists In China Malign Antioxidant Supplements;
Say Mild Biological Stress Can Produce More Internal Antioxidants
Than Can Be Taken In Pills
If you think President Donald Trump is getting unfairly slammed by fake news stories distributed by major news media consider the predicament of vitamin shop owners today who have been branded as “killers” in a news report that is being widely circulated today.
The evidence is not new. But the researchers said: “our study has given a comprehensive description of the response capacity (of the human body) for the first time.” This reporter published a descriptive article in 2014 on the same subject at KnowledgeofHealth.com.
The news story emanating from the report published in Redox Biology was quite different than the actual research.
The news report said: “Antioxidant don’t work as billed,” referring to oral antioxidant supplements.
“Rather than extending longevity, researchers say they trigger a stress reaction which causes the body to age more rapidly…. In other words, “those expensive life-enhancers may actually be killing you” said a news report published at StudyFinds.org.
“Antioxidants, it turned out, had no measurable impact on aging…. Introducing antioxidants resulted in cells aging more rapidly – unnaturally fast,” said the news report.
The lead researcher, Chang Chen was quoted to say: “More and more white collar workers in their 20s are taking pills containing antioxidants such as vitamin C and polyphenols. They must stop!,” she is reported to have said in the South China Morning Post.
The news report, written by Stewart Lawrence, quoted results from a 2008 review of 405 studies published in Cochrane Reviews that found “no significant differences in the mortality” of groups who took antioxidants or an inactive placebo.
That published review claimed vitamin A, beta carotene and vitamin E increased mortality, but the effect was very modest and only statistical, not meaningful, the difference in mortal risk being 1 or 2 people in a thousand.
But “no significant differences” – a null study – is a lot different than the news headline that antioxidant supplements may be killing you.
News reporters and researchers are playing fast and loose with their science.
First, the science was conducted in round worms, not humans. The researchers keep referring to “young individuals” in their study, which made it sound like they conducted human research. It was worms!
Second, the worms were subjected to a mild dose biological stressor – the herbicide paraquat. So if scientific correctness is to be followed, the correct conclusion of their study could have said consumption of a low-dose herbicide would provoke an internal antioxidant response of significant proportion to extend the life of roundworms. Of course, swallowing an herbicide would not be an appropriate recommendation for humans.
The Chinese researchers working at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, did not employ vitamins A, E or beta carotene for comparison, rather they used N-acetyl cysteine (NAC), a sulfur-based antioxidant that has been successfully demonstrated to protect the liver from acetaminophen (Tylenol) poisoning and helps many people overcome their addictive or compulsive behaviors like gambling, binge eating, drug dependence, hair pulling, chewing fingernails and gambling in both animal and human studies.
For some time now it has been demonstrated that mild biological stress such as exposure to heat activates an array of endogenous (internal) enzymatic antioxidants — glutathione, catalase and superoxide dismutase.
The beneficial effect of exposure to low-dose biological threats is called hormesis. Hormesis is defined as exposure to a low-dose toxin that triggers a beneficial counter measure.
Molecules in tea, which professor Chang warned against, such as catechin in tea leaves along with other small molecules called polyphenols found in grapes and more potently in wine (resveratrol) and apple peel (quercetin) as well as in cinnamon and pomegranate, are initially perceived by the body as toxins and detoxified as they pass through the liver.
Resveratrol (rez-vair-ah-trol) is a molecular mimic of food deprivation (calorie restriction) that triggers a gene transcription switch called Nrf2 that then activates internal antioxidants. The very class of nutrients Professor Chang warned against, polyphenols such as found in tea leaves, mimic what low-dose paraquat does.
It’s true that activation of the Nrf2 endogenous antioxidant switch can provide more antioxidant protection than a handful of antioxidant pills. But some dietary supplements such as resveratrol, allicin from garlic and curcumin from turmeric spice, do the very same thing. Pungent allicin from garlic may be the most potent Nrf2 activator as just 2 milligrams provided in a fresh-crushed clove of garlic activates the Nrf2 antioxidant switch (but not cooked garlic and only in alkaline-buffered garlic pills that protect against stomach acid)
No, consumers, young or old, are not wasting their money buying antioxidant pills. Many antioxidants like vitamin A, C and E are essential for life. A US Department of Agriculture resource says 86.4% of Americans do not ingest adequate amounts of vitamin E, 42% not enough vitamin C.
As for those vitamin shop owners, they must be hiding the dead bodies underneath their floorboards so they don’t get tabulated in mortality reports. In case you are unconvinced, you can take a gander at a chart showing US Life Expectancy continues to rise along with the consumption of vitamin pills.
Among the estimated 150 million of Americans taking dietary supplements, there were a total of 8 adverse events that required hospitalization after taking dietary supplements in 2006. Some of these hospital admissions were caused by consumers inadvertent overdosing or swallowing a vitamin pill and getting it lodged in their throat or entrance to their lung. That is a 0.000005% chance of being hospitalized from an adverse reaction emanating from a dietary supplement. That makes dietary supplements safer than tap water, table salt and aspirin.