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In defense of supplements


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I briefly alluded in another thread to Rhonda Patrick's critique of some of the research suggesting harm from beta carotene supplementation (a form of vitamin A) with increased mortality in smokers ( http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJM199605023341802?viewType=Print&amp%3BviewClass=Print&).  The full clip is worth watching I think but below I quote  a similar argument that she presented for a different vitamin (this one for tocopherol) but essentially the same argument as in the Youtube clip ( Her clip is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o0u8UdZeOhc  )


Quote follows:


"It is important not to overgeneralize and say that supplemental antioxidants increase cancer incidence when this is not what the data indicate. The data demonstrate that in the context of abnormal cells (oncogene-induced cancer cells) that vitamin E and NAC can dampen the p53 DNA damage response (checkpoints that stop cells from dividing or inducing cell death) since both of these antioxidants reduce ROS and DNA damage. Obviously, reducing ROS and DNA damage in normal healthy cells is a good thing and has been shown to prevent cancer initiation. However, in cells where cancer initiation has already occurred (ie. precancerous) then these abnormal cells may use this to their advantage because it allows them to continue to override these important checkpoints thereby promoting the survival of these abnormal cells."

( source: https://www.reddit.com/r/Fitness/comments/1wridi/a_scientists_rebuttal_to_the_recent_editorial_on/ )


The above study is not to be confused with a meta-analysis of trials in humans suggesting tocopherol (vitamin E) supplementation is associated with increased all-cause mortality ( http://annals.org/article.aspx?articleid=718049) -- a finding, if accurate, may be due to supplemental alpha tocopherol competing with other forms of tocopherol ( " beta-, gamma-, and delta-tocopherol and alpha-, beta-, gamma-, and delta-tocotrienol").  The jury is still out whether the association they found was causative given the quality of the studies included in the meta-analysis (source: http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/vitamin-e/) and also subsequent meta-analysis questioning the findings at least for moderate dose vitamin E supplementation ( see: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4030744/ ).


Let me preface this next paragraph by emphasizing I have a lot of respect for Dr. Patrick and her nutritional science discourse probably best approximates my own except that while we both seek to follow whole-foods evidence and plant-based nutrition, she is more supplement-focused whereas I am more cautious in this regard.  In that particular youtube video Rhonda Patrick's arguments while sound in rationale, appeared more focused on countering a position than a balanced discussion.  And she raises some great points.  Perhaps this was a reflection of her being understandably frustrated by limitations or problems in methodology for a number of these studies coupled with media's misunderstanding of and unbalanced portrayal of the research. While I am not aware of her having any major conflicts of interest - besides that all bloggers may benefit from some controversy which is unavoidable - I would be interested if anyone has identified any for her situation - for example promotion and/or sale/affiliation with the supplement industry.   In either case, her interviews and discussions have been amongst the most through, balanced and high-impact I have found on the web.

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