Friday, July 13, 2007

Selenium and Antioxidant Safety

My letter criticizing their editorial in Annals of Internal Medicine was accepted and published online by that journal: It is unfortunate that synergistic nutrients are tested individually, like drugs. This is a pharmaceutical practice, not human nutrition, and shouldn’t imply that comprehensive mixtures of nutrients (like a multivitamin) would have the same effects. I dispute that “randomized, controlled clinical trials have shown that ß-carotene and vitamin E supplements, which were widely believed to be safe, increase mortality and morbidity”. The choices, increasing variables, and manipulation by statistical models in meta-analyses are often questionable. In this report, prediabetic symptoms were not even considered as a variable. Buijsse 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, countering the claim that ß-carotene dangers are proven. The Miller meta-analysis, cited as proof of vitamin E’s dangers, was heavily criticized in published responses, and its conclusions were NOT replicated when the same data was re-analyzed (Hathcock). It should therefore not be cited as proof of the vitamin’s danger. Another meta-analysis cited (Bjelakovic) reported that antioxidant vitamins may increase death rates. But the authors did not determine a dose-dependent or cause-and-effect relationship between antioxidants and deaths (from all causes) of study participants. The researchers pooled 68 published trials, excluding 405 published studies with no deaths reported. Too wide a range of potencies (Vitamin A 1333 IU - 200,000 IU, vitamin E 10 IU to 1000 IU), and durations (28 days to 12 years) were lumped together. The statement, “No dietary supplement, including selenium, has proven useful so far for the prevention of cardiovascular disease or cancer in the general U.S. population,” is questionable. The Alpha-Tocopherol, Beta- Carotene Cancer Prevention (ATBC) Study published by the National Cancer Institute demonstrated a 32% reduction in prostate cancer incidence in response to daily alpha-tocopherol supplementation. The Women’s Health Study (JAMA) reported a significant 24% reduction in cardiovascular death with supplemental vitamin E. The NIH reports, “Taking a daily supplement containing 200 μg of selenium … significantly reduced the occurrence and death from total cancers. The incidence of prostate cancer, colorectal cancer, and lung cancer was notably lower in the group given selenium supplements.” Yet you suggest lowering consumption below the Daily Value (70 μg) used in multivitamins and far below the current upper limit. On the contrary, the Lewin Group reports that the use of antioxidants could save the vision and independence of many senior citizens, saving billions of dollars in healthcare costs. REFERENCES: Bjelakovic G, Mortality in Randomized Trials of Antioxidant Supplements for Primary and Secondary Prevention: Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. JAMA 2007. 297(8):842-857 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. DaVanzo JE, et al. An Evidence-Based Study of the Role of Dietary Supplements in Helping Seniors Maintain their Independence. The Lewin Group Inc. January 20, 2006 Hathcock JN, et al. Vitamins E and C are safe across a broad range of intakes. Am J Clin Nutr. 2005 Apr;81(4):736-45. Review. PMID: 15817846 Weinstein SJ, et al. Serum α -Tocopherol and γ-Tocopherol in Relation to Prostate Cancer Risk in a Prospective Study. J. Natl. Cancer Inst. 2005 97: 396-399; doi:10.1093/jnci/dji045

No comments: