Last year, the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Academy of Sciences — the main authority in the United States for nutritional recommendations — published a major report on antioxidant nutrients, including vitamins C and E. The study concluded that taking antioxidant supplements serves no purpose.
However, a recent study conducted by two Oregon State University researchers at the Linus Pauling Institute, published in Free Radical Biology and Medicine, a medical journal, refuted the conclusion made by the Food and Nutrition Board.
The study focuses on lipid oxidation, a major cause in the deterioration of muscles and its effects on the body. Lipids are fats found in cell membranes. When lipids are oxidized, they can become the basis for many health concerns, such as elevated blood pressure and arterial constriction.
The study, co-authored by Angela Mastaloudis, a researcher at the Linus Pauling institute, and Maret Traber, one of the nation’s leading experts on vitamin E, shows that a group of runners who participated in a 50-mile ultramarathon showed metabolic damage and lipid oxidation similar to the damage commonly found in those who recently suffered a heart attack.
Another group of runners who supplemented their diets with daily doses of vitamins C and E had relatively normal health measures.
Because the health issues that arose with the group of runners who did not supplement their diets with vitamins C and E are seen in a variety of major health problems ranging from Alzheimer’s disease to obesity, the conclusions of this study not only affect those who run abnormally high mileage, but also those who suffer from various hereditary health problems.
“Everyone can benefit from a diet rich in fruits and vegetables which contain these antioxidants,” Mastaloudis said. “But for people with oxidative stress, such as runners or people with heart disease, it is more beneficial to take supplements.”
Vitamin E was discovered 80 years ago and is best known as an antioxidant that may reduce oxidative stress associated with the development of coronary heart disease. The dietary source of vitamin E is fats and oils, and at a time when most of the country is either participating in a low fat diet or thinking about it, only about 20 percent of Americans are getting even the recommended daily allowance of the vitamin, to say nothing of the extra dosage that is recommended by this study.
“This study clearly showed that supplementation with these antioxidant vitamins could help prevent the significant levels of lipid oxidation that are associated with intense exercise,” Mastaloudis said.
According to Mastaloudis, the Food and Nutrition Board have yet to change their standpoint on the use of antioxidants, even when directly contradicted by evidence found in this study as well as many others.
“The standards (the Food and Nutrition Board) uses are for the normal population — normal healthy people — and while the results of our study are promising, we do not like to generalize our findings for the entire population,” Mastaloudis said.
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