The folks at Chochrane Systemic Review scrutinised 67 randomised trials but could “find no evidence to support taking antioxidant supplements to reduce the risk of dying earlier in healthy people or patients with various diseases.”
No wonder all that vitamin C I’ve been taking to squash my spring sniffles seems to be doing no good.
Says Chochran researcher, Goran Bjelakovic: ““The findings of our review show that if anything, people in trial groups given the antioxidants beta-carotene, vitamin A, and vitamin E showed increased rates of mortality. There was no indication that vitamin C and selenium may have positive or negative effects…The bottom line is that current evidence does not support the use of antioxidant supplements in the general healthy population or in patients with certain diseases.”
The news has sparked the expected outrage from the supplement industry, but journalists, too, are raising an eyebrow. The Times was quick to point out that studying the effect of antioxidants is incredibly hard due to our ever-changing diet patterns and unreliability as witnesses.
So what does this latest review mean for us? It certainly doesn’t mean that those of us taking multivitamins are going to suffer an early death – they were not covered in the review. For those of us who take supplements of individual antioxidants, the picture is still far from clear. What we can say is that if there are benefits in taking single antioxidant supplements, they are very small indeed.
I agree with the Guardian’s Sarah Boseley:
In the end, maybe the safest thing is just to eat a better diet.
I’m not about to give up my daily multivitamin, but it does make me think twice about all the £££’s I’ve spent on vitamin C. Next time I’ll spend my money on cauliflower and oranges, which are far more pleasant to eat than nasty pills!
No evidence that antioxidant supplements prolong life, News from the Cochrane Library
The truth about Vitamins, The Times
Hard to swallow, The Guardian