Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Epidemiological Study Shows Correlation Between Anti-Oxidant Intake and C-Reactive Protein & Homocystein

After a sudden onset of discussions around the beneficial or even detrimental effects of vitamin supplements in general and antioxidants in particular in the mid to late 2000s, vitamins and, even more, other anti-oxidants have been put back on the map, lately.

A recent epidemiological study from the University of Connecticut (Floegel. 2011) provides further evidence for the hypothesis that, after all, consumption of adequate amounts of vitamins C and E, beta carotene, flavonoids and selenium would be beneficial to your overall health
Intakes of vitamins C and E and carotene were inversely associated with the probability of having serum CRP concentrations >3 mg/l in multivariate logistic regression models. Flavonoid and Se intakes were not associated with the odds of elevated serum CRP concentrations. The mean plasma Hcy concentration was 8·61 (95 % CI 8·48, 8·74) μmol/l. Intakes of vitamins C, E, carotenes and Se were inversely associated with the odds of plasma Hcy [Homocysteine] concentrations >13 μmol/l after adjusting for covariates
While all these results appear to be quite unambiguous, you still have to keep in mind that they support the interpretation "antioxidants are healthy" only, if we assume that the relation between high C-Reactive Protein [CRP], inflammation and the metabolic syndrome, as well as the relation between homocysteine and heart disease is more than just a correlative one; and, to my best knowledge, no study has yet been able to show that injection of homocysteine caused heart disease or an increase in CRP increases inflammation or causes tissue damage. In this context, for example, the hitherto hardly understood involvement of "positive inflammation", such as an exercise induced rise in IL-6 levels, come to mind. In this context, studies such as Ristow et al. (2009) that found the positive effects of exercise being blocked by antioxidant supplementation would warrant further research into what - irrespective of reductions in purported markers of inflammation and cardiac disease - the actual health outcome of higher antioxidant intakes are.

Note: Don't get me wrong. I do not want to argue against a diet rich in natural antioxidants. I just want YOU to be aware that the proven health benefits from eating healthy, antioxidant-rich foods cannot be extrapolated to high (or even mega-dose) vitamin & flavonoid supplements and that taking megadoses of isolated antioxidants such as alpha-tocopherol (especially in its synthetic form and without the complementary tocopherols and -trienols), which is the most commonly sold form of vitamin E, may in fact do more harm than good.