Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Beta Carotene "risks" proven false!

Beta-carotene: Myth and Fact Revised 12/19/2006 Some years ago an antioxidant study in Finland was halted early because of a widely reported increase in cancer rates among male smokers taking beta-carotene. 1 Headlines associated this supplement with cancer risk. Despite objections that the study was flawed, beta-carotene use dropped. A later analysis published in July 2004 took another look at that same Finnish smokers' study data, but now taking into account total antioxidant intake, which clears away the scientific controversy. The smokers’ risk of getting lung cancer was inversely associated with total antioxidants in the diet, with more total antioxidants meaning fewer cancers. 2 A composite antioxidant index was generated for each of the 27,000 men over 14 years. The calculated amounts of carotenoids, flavonoids, Vitamin E, selenium and Vitamin C were compared to actual lung cancer rates, with a clear result: the combination of antioxidants lowered lung cancer risk in male smokers. Another large study has noted that high carotenoid intake, confirmed by measures of blood levels, was associated with lower mortality rates among the elderly over a ten year period. 3 The dietary level of antioxidants is an independent predictor of plasma beta-carotene, especially in moderate alcohol drinkers. A recent study reports, “This may explain, at least in part, the inverse relationship observed between plasma beta-carotene and risk of chronic diseases associated to high levels of oxidative stress (i.e., diabetes and CVD), as well as the failure of beta-carotene supplements alone in reducing such risk.” 4 Still, news reports continue to refer to beta-carotene as harmful, largely because of the original study reports. The “media myth” continues long after the science has moved on. REFERENCES: 1. The Alpha-Tocopherol, Beta Carotene Cancer Prevention Study Group. The effect of vitamin E and beta carotene on the incidence of lung cancer and other cancers in male smokers. N Engl J Med. 1994 Apr 14;330(15):1029-35. http://content.nejm.org/cgi/content/full/330/15/1029?ijkey=bd47b716724d0dad4cad0fb19337308753658337 2. Wright ME, et al. Development of a Comprehensive Dietary Antioxidant Index and Application to Lung Cancer Risk in a Cohort of Male Smokers. July 2004 American Journal of Epidemiology http://aje.oupjournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/160/1/68?maxtoshow=&HITS=10&hits=10&RESULTFORMAT=1&andorexacttitle=and&andorexacttitleabs=and&fulltext=beta+carotene&andorexactfulltext=and&searchid=1100534768534_1530&stored_search=&FIRSTINDEX=0&sortspec=relevance&fdate=7/1/2004&tdate=7/31/2004&journalcode=amjepid 3. Buijsse B, et al. Plasma carotene and alpha-tocopherol in relation to 10-y all-cause and cause-specific mortality in European elderly: The Survey in Europe on Nutrition and the Elderly, a Concerted Action (SENECA). Am J Clin Nutr 2005;82:879–886. 4. Brighenti F. The total antioxidant capacity of the diet is an independent predictor of plasma beta-carotene. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2007) 61, 69–76. doi:10.1038/sj.ejcn.1602485; published online 12 July 2006. Supported by the European Community IST-2001–33204 'Healthy Market', the Italian Ministry of University and Research COFIN 2001 and the National Research Council CU01.00923.CT26 research projects. Neil E. Levin, CCN, DANLA Certified Clinical Nutritionist Diplomate in Advanced Nutritional Laboratory Assessment

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