Thursday, January 27, 2011

Council for Responsible Nutrition Responds to Newsweek Antioxidant Article

Here is the link to the unfortunate article in this week's Newsweek.

Dr. Duffy MacKay's response:

“It's unfortunate that this article provided an isolated look at the body of science surrounding antioxidants.  For example, this article didn't take into account  the entire body of scientific research, which included a number of studies that have shown that taking antioxidant supplements, including vitamins C and E, beta-carotene, zinc and selenium, consistently over the long-term, can play a role in reducing the risk of chronic disease.  

The article also provided an incomplete picture of the existing scientific evidence supporting the benefits of antioxidants, instead relying exclusively on findings from only negative or null studies, and meta-analyses that many scientists have already criticized.   For example, the article did not mention that a recent published re-analysis of the same data reviewed in the 2008 Cochrane Collaboration (which the author references in her story), found that antioxidants in fact don't boost mortality risks.  Nor did this article reference another recent meta-analysis citing the benefits of vitamin E.   These are just two examples of scientific articles which, if included, would have provided readers with a more balanced perspective on the importance of antioxidants.

Nutrition experts agree that a diet high in fruits and vegetables promotes health and reduces the risk of chronic disease. Yet the reality is that people simply aren’t incorporating enough fruits and vegetables in their diets—and therefore may be missing many of the crucial benefits antioxidants provide—and may benefit from taking antioxidant supplements.  While they shouldn’t be considered magic bullets, consumers can feel confident that, when used properly in combination with eating a healthy diet and getting plenty of exercise, antioxidant supplements can play an important role in maintaining and promoting overall health.  Studies have shown that the number one reason consumers take supplements—including antioxidant supplements—is for the overall health and wellness benefits they provide.  Instead of disparaging consumers for the healthy choices they are making, we should be commending them for being proactive in their efforts towards good health.”

1     Biesalski, HK, et al. Re-examination of a Meta-Analysis of the Effect of Antioxidant Supplementation on Mortality and Health in Randomized Trials. Nutrients 2010;2:929-949.
         Abner EL, et al.  Vitamin E and All-cause Mortality: A Meta-Analysis. Curr Aging Sci. 2011 Jan 14.