Herbs / Vitamins / Drugs / Supplements

Finnish Antioxidant Study

One of the most common questions I've been asked recently is: What about beta carotene? Does the most recent study mean I should stop taking it? Is it dangerous? You probably already know the answers -- it was a great deal of media hype and very little accurate science. I have finally received the analysis of the research which I had requested, and I want to share the pertinent details with you.

In January of this year (1996), the Beta-Carotene and Retinol Efficacy Trial (CARET) study reported that beta-carotene might actually increase the risk of lung cancer among long-term smokers or asbestos workers. At the same time, the Physicians' Health Study reported that beta-carotene had no effect at all -- good or bad -- on the risk of either cancer or heart disease.

The problem with both of these studies is that they employ the medical model -- a single nutrient as a "magic bullet" with a single target effect. We know - and the medical community is coming to appreciate - that nutrients don't operate that way. Nutrients work in tandem with other nu-trients to affect a wide range of tissues in the body. Antioxidant nutrients include the principal carotenoids found in food, as well as vitamins C and E. They all neutralize free radicals, which are thought to cause cancer and many types of heart disease. Vitamin E requires selenium for its activity, and the natural Vitamin C complex includes the flavonoids. The same is true of the carotenoids.

Yet, as pointed out by Jeffrey Blumberg, PhD (an antioxidant researcher and associate director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University), "None of the studies used a natural source beta-carotene or mixed carotenoid supplement." Dr. Blumberg further cautions, "Let's not throw the baby out with the bath water. . . . More than 200 studies have shown that anti-oxidants, including beta-carotene, play a major role in preventing cancer and heart disease."

My advice remains to view news reports concerning vitamin therapy with a large dose of skep-ticism. The medical paradigm is totally different from a natural model of treating the whole person. At the RFHC we always give nutrients in combination, based upon your unique biochemical profile. That way, you know what you are taking is right for you.

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