Antioxidants Studies

As everyone knows, eating and drinking are necessary for life. Less well known, however, is the fact that the body generates what are called free radicals in the process of turning food into energy. Free radicals are chemicals that are capable of damaging cells and genetic material. But eating is not the only way free radicals spring into being. The food we eat and the sunlight we feel also generate free radicals.

To be sure, free radicals come in many shapes, sizes, and chemical configurations. The characteristic feature of this chemical is that it soaks up electrons from bodily substances that yield them, which can leave the “loser’s” structure or function radically altered. Free radical damage can change the instructions coded in a strand of DNA; it can also make a circulating low-density lipoprotein (LDL, sometimes called bad cholesterol) molecule more likely to get trapped in an artery wall. Free radicals also have the potential to alter a cell’s membrane, changing the flow of what enters the cell and what leaves it.

Fortunately, we aren’t defenseless against free radicals. The body puts up natural defenses against free radicals by making molecules that smothers the errant chemicals. We also extract free-radical fighters from food. Often called “antioxidants”, certain kinds of food give electrons to free-radicals without themselves turning into electron-scavenging substances. There are many different substances that can act as antioxidants. The most familiar ones are vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, and other related carotenoids, along with the minerals selenium and manganese. They’re joined by glutathione, coenzyme Q10, lipoic acid, flavonoids, phenols, polyphenols, phytoestrogens, and many more.

However, the term “antioxidant” can be misleading. These substances do not emit chemical properties that fight so much as they emit properties that facilitate. Indeed, some substances that act as antioxidants in one situation may be prooxidants—electron grabbers—in a different chemical milieu. Another big misconception is that antioxidants are interchangeable. This is not true. Each anti-oxidant has unique chemical behaviors and biological properties. It is believed, and has been strongly corroborated through scientific study, that anti-oxidants evolved as parts of elaborate networks, each substance having a different role to play. It follows that no single substance can fulfill the function of every other substance.

Health Benefits of Antioxidants: What’s the Buzz?

Antioxidants came to public attention in the 1990s. It was then that scientists began to understand that free radical damage was involved in the early stages of artery-clogging atherosclerosis, and that the chemicals may contribute to cancer, vision loss, and a host of other chronic conditions. A number of studies stated that people with low intakes of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables were at greater risk for developing these chronic conditions than were people who ate sufficient amounts fruits and vegetables. Clinical trials tested the impact of single substances, especially beta-carotene and vitamin E, on cancer, heart disease, and similar maladies. But even before the results of these trials were in, the media, and the dietary supplement and food industries began promoting the benefits of “antioxidants.” Foods such as frozen berries and green tea were hyped as being rich in antioxidants. The consequences of this publicity were predictable: certain foods were labeled as rich in antioxidants and were marketed as such in stores; the makers of dietary supplements began touting the disease-fighting properties of all sorts of antioxidants.

In the meantime, the results of the actual trials were mixed. Most have not found the hoped-for benefits. And research teams reported that vitamin E and other antioxidant supplements didn’t protect against heart disease or cancer. One study even showed that taking beta-carotene may actually increase the chances of developing lung cancer in smokers. However, some of the trials reported benefits. One such study found that taking beta-carotene is associated with a modest reduction in the rate of cognitive decline.

The rather most, if not downright disappointing, results of the antioxidant trials have not stopped the commercial interests from misrepresenting the benefits of antioxidants in order to make money. Antioxidant supplements are a $500 million dollar industry that continues to grow. Antioxidants are still added to breakfast cereals, sports bars, energy drinks, and other processed foods, and they are promoted as additives that can prevent heart disease, cancer, cataracts, memory loss, and a host of other conditions. The claims made by the food and dietary supplement industries often distort the data. It is true that the package of antioxidants, minerals, fiber, and other substances found naturally in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains help prevent a variety of chronic diseases; but there is no solid evidence that high doses of antioxidants can accomplish the same feat. The conclusion is clear: randomized, placebo-controlled trials—which, when performed well, provide the strongest evidence—offer little support that taking vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, or other single antioxidants provides substantial protection against heart disease, cancer, or other chronic conditions. The results of the largest such trials have been mostly negative.

Heart Disease and Antioxidants

Vitamin E, beta-carotene, and other so-called antioxidants are not a panacea for heart disease and should not be promoted as such. In the Women’s Health Study, 39,876 initially healthy women took 600 IU of natural source vitamin E or a placebo every other day for 10 years. The results of the study showed that the rates of major cardiovascular events and cancer were no lower among those taking vitamin E than they were among those taking the placebo; however, a 24 percent reduction in total cardiovascular mortality was observed, which can be considered a quite significant result.

Earlier large vitamin E trials, conducted among individuals with previously diagnosed coronary disease or at high risk for it, generally showed no benefit. In the Heart Outcomes Prevention Evaluation (HOPE) trial, the rates of major cardiovascular events were essentially the same in the vitamin E (21.5 percent) and placebo (20.6 percent) groups, although participants taking vitamin E had higher risks of heart failure and hospitalization for heart failure. (3) Another trial, the Gruppo Italiano per lo Studio della Sopravvivenza nell’Infarto Miocardico (GISSI), showed mixed results; there were no preventive effects after more than three years of treatment with vitamin E among 11,000 heart attack survivors. Nevertheless, some studies suggest potential benefits among certain subgroups. A recent trial of vitamin E in Israel, for example, showed a marked reduction in coronary heart disease among people with type 2 diabetes who have a common genetic predisposition for greater oxidative stress. In any case, Beta-carotene, as was shown in the Physicians’s Health Study, does not provide any protection against heart disease or stroke.

There have been combinations, but the findings are complicated and unclear. In the Supplementation en Vitamins et Mineraux Antioxydants (SU.VI.MAX) study, 13,017 French men and women took a single daily capsule that contained 120 milligrams of vitamin C, 30 milligrams of vitamin E, 6 milligrams of beta-carotene, 100 micrograms of selenium, and 20 milligrams of zinc, or a placebo, for seven and a half years. The vitamins had no effect on overall rates of cardiovascular disease. In the Women’s Antioxidant Cardiovascular Study, vitamin E, vitamin C, and/or beta-carotene had much the same effect as a placebo on myocardial infarction, stroke, coronary revascularization, or cardiovascular death, although there was a modest and significant benefit for vitamin E among women with existing cardiovascular disease.

Cancer and Antioxidants

There is also no conclusive proof that antioxidants help prevent cancer. Scientists need more time to determine the impact of antioxidants on the risk of getting cancer. In the long-term Physicians’ Health Study, cancer rates were similar among men taking beta-carotene and among those taking a placebo. Other trials have also largely showed no effect, including HOPE. The SU.VI.MAX trial showed a reduction in cancer risk and all-cause mortality among men taking an antioxidant cocktail but no apparent effect in women; it is possible that this is a result of the men in the study having low blood levels of beta-carotene at its beginning. A randomized trial of selenium in people with skin cancer demonstrated significant reductions in cancer and cancer mortality at various sites, including colon, lung, and prostate. The effects were strongest among those with low selenium levels at baseline.

Age-Related Eye Disease and Antioxidants

The effects of antioxidants on age-related eye disease may be one of the most hopeful leads scientists have. A six-year trial, the Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS), found that a combination of vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, and zinc provided some protection against the development of advanced age-related macular degeneration in people who were at high risk of the disease. Lutein, a naturally occurring carotenoid found in green, leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale, may also protect vision. It is too early to tell what the impact of lutein supplements may be. The trials of such substances have been relatively short, and their ability to slow or prevent age-related macular degeneration has not been ascertained. A new trial of the AREDS supplement regimen plus lutein, zeaxanthin, and fish oil is underway, and it could yield better information.

Potential Hazards of Antioxidants

There have been a few studies which showed that the consumption of antioxidants, as opposed to being beneficial in all instances or at least harmless in fact can interfere with the health of the consumer. The first trial which showed this possible negative effect was undertaken in Finland where heavy smokers were fed beta-carotene. Because of their smoking habits there was a already a lung cancer risk but it was noticed that a significant increase in the incidence of lung cancer amongst the trial group as opposed to the placebo. The trial was stopped so conclusive results are hard to deduce.

A different test which was conducted with heavy smokers exposed to asbestos being fed beta-carotene and vitamin A. This too shows an increase in the incidence of Lung cancer. It must be emphasized that not all trials of Beta-carotene have been negative. A physicians health study which only had a few smokers did not show any significant differences even when followed up after 18 years.

In a separate study showing possible negative effects of a variety of health supplements showed a higher incidence of skin cancer in women being fed supplements of Vitamins C & E, Beta-carotene, selenium and zinc.

Conclusions to be drawn from the above studies, amongst others, is that it is known that although free radicals have been shown to contribute to the incidence of heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s and even vision loss, there is no automatic conclusion that can be drawn that antioxidants will fix the problem. And certainly not when consumed away from their normal context.

Studies to date do not show conclusive evidence one way or another but there is certainly no strong evidence to suggest that antioxidants are effective against disease. A rider must be mentioned and that is that the trials conducted till now have been short in duration, conducted with people some of whom had an existing disease.

There has been a noticeable benefit to the consumption of beta-carotene on cognitive ability after 18 years. This is exceptional as it is the only study to have continued so long. (Physicians health follow up study) Nevertheless there is abundant evidence suggests that eating whole fruits, vegetables, and whole grains—all rich in networks of antioxidants and their helper molecules—provides protection against many of these scourges of aging.

Clarification with regard to supplemental studies

There are any number of studies conducted on any number of vitamins and other dietary supplements that are often contradictory. The picture presented to the consumer is confusing and will often seem frustrating in that instead of clarifying things these studies muddy the waters.

Examining exactly what the vitamins trial study did will often go some way to explaining the varying results. Here are a few items to check when looking at apparently conflicting vitamins studies.

  • What was the precise dosage taken by the participants and how long was the study’s duration. This is significant as few studies will have identical dosages and identical time spans. A study in Vitamin D showed that a dosage of 700 plus IU per day had a significant protection against fractures whereas a study of people taking only 400 IU per day showed no such effect. The same applies to the duration as the build up of the protective mechanisms is not a short process.
  • The age, health and life styles of the participants. Studies drawn from young, active gym going participants is likely to differ significantly from heavy drink and smoking office workers. Exercise and other lifestyle choices such as diet affect out health and how the body responds to vitamins.
  • At what stage is was the supplement fed to a study participant. If studying the effect of a supplement on someone already suffering from a disease it may be found that something taken at the onset has a differing effect from something taken when a disease is far advanced. An example being that Folate supplements are only effective against neural tube defects in the early stages of pregnancy.
  • How were the results tabulated and calculated. This is a significant problem as measurement as to benefit may and probably will vary widely. Heart disease is a wide subject and a measurement of coronary thrombosis may miss out on the incidence of strokes.

Smoking Woman

Lung cancer is the number one cancer killer for women. Every year, 140,000 women die from tobacco-related diseases. One woman has a powerful message against smoking.

When cancer survivor and ex-cigarette model Janet Sackman speaks, people listen. The one-time cover girl for Lucky Strike cigarettes lost her voicebox, part of a lung and nearly her life to cancer. She spent years chain-smoking. “It was glamorous. It was sophisticated in those days. Everyone smoked,” she says.

Janet smoked her first cigarette in 1949. A tobacco executive asked her to take a puff for a billboard photo. Eager to please, the 17-year-old model inhaled. She Initially hated it but was soon hooked, smoking a pack-and-a-half a day. “I tried to quit every day, but I just couldn’t,” says Janet.

Her cover girl days were long behind her when Janet was diagnosed with throat cancer in 1983. Doctors warned she could lose her larynx. She woke up from the operation unable to speak. “I was shivering and tried to call a nurse, but no sound came out,” she says.

Lung cancer is the number one cancer killer for women. Clearly it’s now a greater killer than breast cancer, and it seems to be harder for women to quit.

It took Janet a full year to learn to speak again. Now she’s using what’s left of her voice to save lives. She travels the country trying to educate children about the dangers of smoking. She often receives letters from children who decided not to smoke after hearing her speak. She says that’s what makes it all worthwhile.

Smoker’s Nutrition

Containing over 4,000 chemicals, including more than sixty known carcinogenic (cancer-causing) substances, tobacco smoke has an obvious negative impact on health. People who smoke cigarettes or any other form of tobacco are at greater risk for such serious respiratory illnesses as lung, cancer, emphysema, and chronic bronchitis, as well as coronary heart disease, stroke, circulatory problems, periodontal disease, and osteoporosis.

Smoking robs the body of a number of important vitamins and minerals, and it also affects the body’s ability to absorb these essential nutrients. The primary nutrient affected by cigarette smoke is vitamin C, which helps boost the immune system, is needed for maintaining healthy bones and teeth, and is essential for healing wounds. It is also necessary to form collagen, a protein that is required to make blood vessels, skin, scar tissue, and ligaments. As one of the body’s many antioxidants, vitamin C helps block some of the damage caused by free radicals.

Supplements for smokers

• Alpha-lipoic acid
• Carnitine
• Coenzyme Q10
• N-acetylcysteine (NAC)
• Selenium
• Vitamin C
• Vitamin E

Warning – You already know that very high dosages of vitamin A and beta-carotene can cause certain health risks. However, recent studies have shown that smokers who intake high dosages of vitamin A and/or beta-carotene may hve an increased risk of developing lung cancer. Consequently, do not take more than 8,000 IU a day of vitamin A or beta-carotene – especially if you are a smoker.

How big of a problem is prostate cancer?

It’s the most common cancer in men in the United States. Its been about 200,000 cases a year for the last five years or so. That means in the last five years, there are a million affected really with prostate cancer. It’s also the second most common cancer killer in men in the United States, after lung cancer. What’s really important for people to understand is that African-Americans are about three times the risk of getting prostate cancer and three times the risk of dying from prostate cancer.

There are many, many reasons for that, probably although no one knows the relative contribution of each of those reasons. Some of it has to do with access to care, some of it has to do with education, but even in a system like the military where race does not play a factor in access to care, prostate cancer behaves more aggressively in black men than Caucasians. So, there probably is something biologic to it as well.

The good news is that the mortality due to prostate cancer in Caucasian men is now lower than it was before PSA screening was introduced in 1987, but the mortality rate in the United States for African-Americans hasn’t changed at all in the last several decades.

There’s a lot of laboratory evidence to suggest that both vitamin E and/or selenium act as antioxidants. Oxidants are cellular toxins that can cause DNA to mutate and turn into cancer. The real interest in vitamin E and selenium came from two large-scale, randomized trials using lots of participants, looking at other diseases. In the case of selenium, it was a study called the Clark Trial, where they looked at whether or not selenium would prevent recurrence of non-melanoma skin cancer. It didn’t have any effect on skin cancer, but as what we call a secondary end point — sort of a surprise — the incidence of prostate cancer was markedly reduced in the men who took selenium. And, for vitamin E, it was an even larger trial — 29,000 finished smokers — and there the hypothesis was that vitamin E would prevent lung cancer. What was interesting is in fact, the smokers that took vitamin E actually had more lung cancer. So, it doesn’t always work. That’s why we need to do studies. But, again, as a surprise, as a secondary end point, the incidence of vitamin E was markedly reduced by about 40 percent in the men who, rather the instance of prostate cancer was markedly reduced in the men who took vitamin E.

Prostate cancer is still a major killer in the United States. It’s second only to lung cancer with around 31,000 deaths a year. But, even if you don’t die from prostate cancer, if you’re diagnosed with prostate cancer in your 40s or 50s, the side effects of treatment are pretty substantial. Because of the anatomy of the male, treatment for prostate cancer, whether its by radiation or by surgery, can cause difficulty with urination, it can cause difficulty with sexual function, and it can cause bowel difficulties. It would be a lot easier to prevent that from happening than to have many hundreds of thousands of men go through treatment every year and experience all those side effects.

Source: Ivanhoe News

Indoor Smoking Bans – Creating Unhealthy Outdoors?

More and more public places are banning indoor smoking, but what effect is this having on the air just outside the doors ofrestaurants and bars — where smokers congregate? Researchers from the University of Georgia in Athens measured carbon monoxide and small particle levels in these areas. They found a rise in pollutants was associated with an increase in the number of smokers — not cars. Researchers plan to continue their investigation to determine how much secondhand smoke people are exposed to form outdoor smokers. They say, “With more indoor smoking bans, more people seem to be smoking outside. Are we creating zones that are potentially unhealthy? That’s what we’re trying to figure out.”

Seeming Healthy Kids Still Affected by Secondhand Smoke

Children of smokers who appear healthy may still be enduring damage to their airways that could lead to lung disease later in life. Researchers from University Medical Center Utrecht in the Netherlands studied 244 children with no history of lung or airway disease and found those whose parents smoked had significantly reduced lung function similar to that seen in smokers. Smoking after birth appeared more harmful than smoking in pregnancy alone. The researchers speculate that the growing number of public place smoking bans might cause parents to smoke more in their own homes, thereby increasing harm to their children.

Marijuana, Cigarettes and Lung Disease

For people who smoke cigarettes, smoking marijuana in addition increases their risk of developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) by one-third, say researchers from British Columbia reporting on a new study. Specifically:

Smoking cigarettes put people at a 2.36-times greater risk for respiratory problems than those who didn’t smoke
Smoking both cigarettes and marijuana put people at 18-times the risk of developing COPD

Lung Cancer

Not all Vitamins Protect Against Lung Cancer

Supplements are a multi-billion dollar industry, and one of their supposed benefits is cancer prevention. But in a new study out of the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle, researchers report adults taking multivitamins, vitamin C and E and folate do not decrease their risk of lung cancer. But on the flip side, no increased risk of lung cancer was associated with the vitamins either. A prior study done in 1996 on supplements of beta-carotene and retinol was halted after they were found to increase lung cancer risk, particularly among smokers.

Source: Ivanhoe News

Quitting Smoking Reduces Lung Cancer Risk

Quitting smoking can decrease the risk of developing all different types of lung cancer, including those most and least closely associated with tobacco use.

Lung cancer is typically divided into two major types: small cell carcinoma and non small cell carcinoma. Small cell carcinoma is the most aggressive form of the disease and is almost entirely caused by cigarette smoking. It accounts for about 20 percent of all lung cancer cases. Non small cell lung cancer accounts for the remaining 80 percent of cases and is divided into three types: squamous cell carcinoma, the most common type seen in men; adenocarcinoma, the most common type of lung cancer in women and nonsmokers; and large cell carcinoma, which originates in the peripheral parts of the lungs. It is a well-established fact that quitting smoking reduces your risk of getting lung cancer, but doctors have not known how it decreases the risk between the various types of the disease.

Researchers from the Medical College of Ohio reviewed 27 studies published between 1970 and 1999 to identify the impact quitting has on the various forms. Their results indicate smoking cessation reduces the risk of getting all types of lung cancer. The effect is most prominent for small cell lung cancer and squamous cell lung cancer. Heavy smokers, particularly women, benefit the most from quitting. That finding is especially important, they say, because while lung cancer rates are leveling off for men, they are increasing among women.

Source: Ivanhoe Newswire