Science can’t seem to make up its collective mind on nutrition. But when things are being foisted upon you by celebrities wanting you to spend beaucoup bucks, it’s easy to see the science of NOPE.
I must confess, I was a supplement junkie for the longest time, but lately economics has forced me to put an end to my vitamin chomping days. So why do I feel just as good if not better than when I was ingesting them?
There probably are some things we need to supplement our diets with, the trouble is, junk science keeps announcing different guidelines, and it’s fueled by marketing people, not nutritionists.
The NY Times Saturday published this piece about the downside of certain vitamins, including beta carotene, which was one of my go-to supplements. I really am not worried too much about any damage my body may have incurred, I’m more worried as to which nutritional science studies are legit, and which are bogus.
It makes you want to go clean, just to err on the side of caution.
The weird thing is, it’s our own body that can’t make up its mind:
What explains this connection between supplemental vitamins and increased rates of cancer and mortality? The key word is antioxidants.
Antioxidation vs. oxidation has been billed as a contest between good and evil. It takes place in cellular organelles called mitochondria, where the body converts food to energy — a process that requires oxygen (oxidation). One consequence of oxidation is the generation of atomic scavengers called free radicals (evil). Free radicals can damage DNA, cell membranes and the lining of arteries; not surprisingly, they’ve been linked to aging, cancer and heart disease.
To neutralize free radicals, the body makes antioxidants (good). Antioxidants can also be found in fruits and vegetables, specifically in selenium, beta carotene and vitamins A, C and E. Some studies have shown that people who eat more fruits and vegetables have a lower incidence of cancer and heart disease and live longer. The logic is obvious. If fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants, and people who eat fruits and vegetables are healthier, then people who take supplemental antioxidants should also be healthier. It hasn’t worked out that way.
The likely explanation is that free radicals aren’t as evil as advertised. (In fact, people need them to kill bacteria and eliminate new cancer cells.) And when people take large doses of antioxidants in the form of supplemental vitamins, the balance between free radical production and destruction might tip too much in one direction, causing an unnatural state where the immune system is less able to kill harmful invaders. Researchers call this the antioxidant paradox.
And so it becomes a battle between the government and big vitamin companies, and in a battle between the government and corporate America, the consumer NEVER wins.