Are you tempted to pop vitamins to cover the nutritional bases? Then you may want to consider this: A new analysis of 67 studies concludes that taking dietary supplements not only didn't cut death rates but in some cases could actually have hiked them.
The new findings come from the prestigious Cochrane Collaboration, an international organization based in Britain that evaluates medical research. The scientific rigor of studies can vary, so Cochrane evaluated only randomized studies, considered one of the gold standards of research. A couple of hundred thousand people participated in the studies, which, the new analysis concluded, "found no evidence to support antioxidant supplements for primary or secondary prevention" of death. Taking vitamins A, E and beta carotene "may increase mortality," the study also found.
But Andrew Shao, vice president, scientific and regulatory affairs, for the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), a trade association for the dietary supplement industry, said that "antioxidant supplements are certainly not meant to be magic bullets and should not realistically be expected to undo a lifetime of unhealthy habits. However, when used properly, in combination with eating a healthy diet, getting plenty of exercise, not smoking ... antioxidant supplements can play an important role in maintaining and promoting overall health."
Until scientists sort it out, here's the good news: Studies to date have not found adverse effects from getting these or other antioxidants from food - just one more reason to eat smart. Pass those carrots and avocados, please.