Vitamins

A study published in the current issue of the European Journal of Nutrition found that use of antioxidant vitamins decreased the risk of cancer mortality by 48 percent, and “general mortality” was reduced by 42 percent.

Conducted by the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC), the scientists analyzed the intake of more than 29,000 people who did not have cancer or heart disease at the onset of the study. Over the course of 11 years, the study researchers documented 1,101 deaths—513 from cancer and 264 from cardiovascular diseases. The analysis concluded that those who used (unspecified) antioxidant vitamins at the start of the study were significantly less at risk of cancer or general mortality than those people who started to take the supplements at some point after the study began, suggesting long-term use of the supplements had a cumulative and more effective benefit on health. “Based on limited numbers of users and cases, this study suggests that supplementation of antioxidant vitamins might possibly reduce cancer and all-cause mortality.”

The EPIC study has received varying peer reviewed opinions, some challenging the methodological challenges of observational studies of antioxidant supplement effects, while others supporting the findings. Previous research found that vitamins A and E could possibly increase mortality risks by as much as 16 percent; and vitamin C showed a nine percent decrease in a paper published in 2007 by researchers at the Copenhagen University Hospital in Denmark.

The use of vitamins and antioxidants to treat and prevent illnesses such as cancer has been widely contended in the medical community for decades. Two-time Nobel Prize winner Dr. Linus Pauling faced harsh criticism over his inclination toward orthomolecular therapy (“mega-dosing”) of vitamin C, which he claimed could not only prevent cancer, but also cure it.

Antioxidants are molecules that can slow or stop the oxidation process of other molecules. Oxidation is an intra-cellular chemical reaction that causes damage or death to cells. 

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image: Andy.Simmons