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Antioxidant Supplements Up Death Risk

Study Shows No Benefit, Slightly Higher Death Risk for Antioxidant Supplements
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Antioxidant Supplements and Death Risk continued...

"This is a great study. It is the highest form of scientific evidence," Miller tells WebMD. "I don't think that [Shao's] criticism is legitimate. I argue this is the best technique to analyze all this information."

Gluud and Bjelakovic strongly disagree that they "cherry picked" only studies that fit some preconceived conclusion. They point out that all of their methods are "transparent" and open to public view.

"Anyone is welcome to criticize our research," Gluud says. "But my question is, what is your evidence? I think the parties that want to sell or use these antioxidant supplements in the dosages used in these trials, they want [to see only] positive evidence that it works beneficially."

Advice to Consumers

Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD, LD, is director of nutrition for WebMD. She reviewed the Bjelakovic/Gluud study for this article.

"This is a very comprehensive, to-be-respected analysis. This isn't just another study coming out," Zelman says. "The bottom line is that antioxidant supplements are not a magic bullet for disease prevention. We hoped maybe they were, but they are not."

If you are interested in protecting your health, Zelman says, pills aren't the answer.

"There is no single food or nutrient that is going to be the answer. The secret really is lifestyle," she says. "And the most important things about lifestyle are being at a healthy weight, being physically active, and eating a healthy diet."

Shao says he's not persuaded to stop taking antioxidant supplements.

"I take antioxidant supplements every day," he says. "I know more about these nutrients than most people do, including the authors of this study, who are not nutritionists. This does not change a thing for me. You can take that to the bank."

Zelman has this advice: If you plan to continue taking antioxidant supplements, don't exceed the recommended daily doses.

"For nutritional insurance, my suggestion would be a once-daily multivitamin," she says. "But for those people who take multiple supplements, and are going to continue to do so, heed the warning and be sure to respect the safe upper dosage limits."

"If you are in doubt, take the time and go to your doctor and talk with her or him," Gluud advises.

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