The Daily Green has always promoted healthy eating in the form of real foods as opposed to vitamin supplements. It's not just because we love visiting the farmers' market and cooking up delicious recipes. Studies have shown that real foods high in vitamins do more for your health than their vitamin supplement counterparts.
A study in this week's issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and detailed in the New York Times, proposed that if you are exercising to improve metabolism and prevent diabetes, then you may want to avoid antioxidant vitamins like C and E. Why? It comes down to reactive oxygen species (ROS), of which free radicals are a subset. When you exercise, your body creates these compounds, which damage your body's tissues. But your body has a natural defense system for ROS, which vitamin supplements may interfere with. "Thus, it is possible that preventing the formation of ROS by, for example, antioxidants might actually increase, rather than decreases the risk of type 2 diabetes." Essentially "antioxidant supplementation blocks many of the beneficial effects of exercise on metabolism," the study states.
This study also recaps several other recent findings that suggest antioxidant supplements could harm you. According to the study, "[A]ntioxidant use in type 2 diabetics has been linked to increased prevalence of hypertension and use of antioxidant supplements has recently been proposed to increase overall mortality in the general population. Taken together, these previously published findings tentatively suggest that fruits and vegetables may exert health-promoting effects despite their antioxidant content and possible due to other bio-active compounds."
The study makes one last important point: Eating vitamins present in foods is still good for you. It's only vitamin pills that seem problematic.
This is one study, of course. But we have yet to hear of any study that reports any negative effects from eating healthy fruits and veggies.
Below is a recap of three more reasons to question the health benefits of vitamin supplements:
1. Vitamins C and E Won't Prevent Heart Attack
In a long-term study of male physicians, vitamins C and E did not reduce the risk of major cardiovascular events, but it is well documented that people who eat plenty of plant foods have a lower risk of heart disease, cancer and other conditions.
2. Vitamin C and E Pills Don't Prevent Cancer
Using the same data as the above study, researchers determined that taking vitamin C and E supplements doesn't lower cancer risk either.
3. Vitamins A, E and Beta Carotene Pills May Shorten Your Life
This study, published by the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that although antioxidant supplements are used for the prevention of several diseases, "Treatment with beta carotene, Vitamin A, and Vitamin E may increase mortality. The potential roles of vitamin C and selenium on mortality need further study."
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