Antioxidants – Are They Killing Us?

     Awhile back I read a news article where researchers from the University of Minnesota discovered that women that take vitamin supplements have an average of 2.4 % increase in mortality rate compared to those that do not. Seems odd doesn’t it? The article is still available here, and it names multivitamins (which could include a whole gamut of vitamins), folic acid, vitamin B6, iron, magnesium, zinc and copper as the culprits. The study did not state any statistics on the cause of death, although it would seem if they knew the study participants well enough to know they were taking vitamins and knew they died, they might also know how they died, however no statistics were cited. I suppose the figures could be tainted if the people taking vitamins were trying to offset a disease to which they were predisposed. Or possibly they didn’t eat well in the first place so were trying to make up for what they don’t get in their diets. But could it be deeper than that? Could the vitamin supplements actually be killing us as the article suggests, or at least speeding up the inevitable?

     I decided to look around a little more. I found this article on FuturePundit’s web site discussing a Cochrane Collaboration meta-analysis on antioxidants. The article closes in on antioxidants (Vitamin A, C and E specifically) as increasing mortality rate and at even much higher rates than the University of Minnesota study on multivitamin, folic acid, vitamin B6, iron, magnesium, zinc and copper use. They also spell out which vitamins had the highest risk, so check it out. But in particular this excerpt from the article caught my attention:

     One of the uses of free radicals in the body is in the immune system to kill invading pathogens. Taking big doses of antioxidant vitamins might render aged immune systems less able to take on invader pathogens. So the higher mortality rate of vitamin takers might be due to dampened immune systems.

     You may have heard the theory that everyone has cancer cells somewhere in their bodies and the people who succumb to cancer are the people whose immune systems are weak, allowing the cancer cells to get a foothold. Could antioxidants actually be weakening our immune systems allowing cancer growth?

     I also checked Wikipedia and found this article about antioxidants. About a third of the way down the page I found this regarding the potential of antioxidants to damage health:

     Some antioxidant supplements may promote disease and increase mortality in humans.[103][104] Hypothetically, free radicals induce an endogenous response which protects against exogenous radicals (and possibly other toxic compounds).[105] Recent experimental evidence strongly suggests that this is indeed the case, and that such induction of endogenous free radical production extends the life span of Caenorhabditis elegans.[106] Most importantly, this induction of life span is prevented by antioxidants, providing direct evidence that toxic radicals may mitohormetically exert life extending and health promoting effects.

     This also supports the theory that we need free radicals to fight off disease. If you would like to find more evidence that antioxidants might be shortening your life click here to get started.

     Both the University of Minnesota and the Cochrane Collaboration met-analysis studies seem to contradict what was always recommended by vitamin supplement advocates. Vitamins A, C, and E (the major antioxidant vitamins) have been touted as the way to great cardiovascular health. And we’ve also been told that antioxidants help minimize the effects of aging. Now we are learning that they possibly contribute to the final effect of aging… death.

     I’d like to provide my personal observations that support this anti-antioxidant theory:

     In my experience working as a nurse I noticed something that caught me as a little peculiar. It seemed that when people were reaching the end of their lives by natural causes they usually either had cardiovascular disease or cancer. It was uncommon to see a patient that had both. I often wondered why. Could the people whom died of cancer been taking vitamins, and more specifically antioxidants, which weakened their immune systems? And could the people who died of cardiovascular disease have been patients whom did not take antioxidants? I’m sure it’s not that cut and dried however I wish I had those statistics!

     In my family we always had more of a tendency for cardiovascular disease. In order to try to offset or delay the progression of that disease process (and with the added benefit of staying young as possible), I tried to stay fit and active, watched my weight and I took antioxidants and Niacin. As luck would have it, my cardiovascular health is pretty good. I don’t have hypertension and my cholesterol is terrific with an HDL of over 100. However, as you know I have (dare I say… had?) cancer instead. So how did that happen when there was little to no familial history? Well if it’s not inherited, it’s acquired. So I must have been doing something that contributed to my getting cancer. And so must a lot of other people since cancer has reached epidemic proportions. Could my antioxidants have caused my cancer and could the increased use of antioxidants in the general population be contributing to the increasing cancer rates? It would be interesting to see a graph showing the cancer rate overlaying antioxidant use over the last 50 years. Searching for this I could only find this article regarding current vitamin supplement trends and driving forces, however in does support the trend that vitamin supplement use is on the rise. And we all know cancer rates are thru the ceiling.

     Even while I was on chemotherapy, I was taking powerful antioxidants (Pawpaw and Protocel) to protect my healthy cells from the chemo and because their advocates suggested they had anti-cancer properties of their own. Obviously that was before I knew about the down side of antioxidant use. Could the antioxidants have also been protecting the cancer cells from the chemo the same way it was protecting the healthy cells? This may explain why the lesion showed up in my liver after my course of chemo treatments was complete. And if you’ve read any of my other posts you can see that same liver lesion is no longer present after taking hydrogen peroxide… an oxidant!

     Just in the name you can see that antioxidants protect from oxidants. Fortunately at the time I was taking the peroxide to treat the lesion in my liver, the only antioxidant I was on was selenium. You may have noted the selenium did not have an adverse effect on the death rates in the Cochrane Collaboration research seen in the FuturePundit article. So if any of you are taking 35% food grade hydrogen peroxide for cancer, I would do a careful analysis of the supplements you are taking and consider limiting your antioxidant use. They may be hindering the efficacy of the peroxide by protecting the cancer cells from the oxidant properties of the peroxide.

     For the rest of you healthy folks out there… Don’t blindly take antioxidants because you’ve been told you’ll live longer and will look like you are 35 when you are 75. Recent research doesn’t support longevity with antioxidant supplement use. As always, do your own research and decide what’s best for you and with your family history.

     I realize this is theory is controversial, everywhere you look antioxidants are touted as the being the latest fountain of youth and a necessity for health. They just might not be the panacea we’ve been lead to believe they are. And I’m not suggesting you start exposing yourself to hords of oxidants and free radicals. Possibly the answer in a healthy person is balance. For those of you that wish you were healthy, your antioxidant/oxidant ratios may be out of balance and may need some tweaking. It’s at least something to consider.

     The only antioxidants my body gets now come naturally from fresh fruits and vegetables in my diet. Oh… and I have a nearly full bottle of multivitamins I’m willing to give away. Any takers?

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5 Responses to Antioxidants – Are They Killing Us?

  1. Katherine Payne says:

    I’m so confused! I was recently diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and CLL. I have been taking lots of vitamins and now I just don’t know what to do! I am so scared because I have also been diagnosed with an 11 q deletion and my doctor at John’s Hopkins said I “automatically have a “sad face” attached to my chart for that.” Hard to believe a doctor could say such a thing. I wish that he had given me more hope – I have been depressed ever since he told me that in May.

    Oh well…guess I need to do more research on these little bottles of hope I have in my cabinet!

    Thanks so much. Hope you continue to be cancer-free!

    Katherine Payne

    • Rosanne says:

      Katherine, I can’t say for sure vitamins are harming you. All I’m saying is it seems logical that if they protect the cells that they could also be protecting the cancer cells from any natural defenses the body may have. It’s been awhile since I wrote that article and I imagine there has been more research done since then that could either substantiate or refute my thoughts. Fortunately I remain cancer free. In fact my oncologist good-naturedly told me to leave and he never wants to see me again. In this case it’s nice to know I’m not wanted. 🙂
      Please do your research and find the right treatment plan for yourself. Mine most likely is not the only one. For instance you may have read my post called Meet Ted. Here’s a link to his site. https://tedhowardnz.wordpress.com/cancer-treatment/ He also successfully beat melanoma that from what I understand was fairly advanced.
      Best wishes to you, Katherine.
      I’ll keep you in my thoughts and prayers,
      Rosanne

    • Hi Katherine

      A little over 5 years ago I was diagnosed with terminal metastatic melanoma, and given a 50% chance of living 5 months. I have been tumour free for over 4 years.
      All my medical records are on my blog at http://www.tedhowardnz.wordpress.com/about and what I did is in the cancer treatment section of that blog.

      From my own research I am very confident of the anti-cancer properties of high dose vitamin C, but once you start, you have to keep it up. It has to be twice a day every day. If you do decide to stop, then do it very slowly over a long time.

      As a result of reading your distress, I downloaded the 2012 Cochran Collaboration review, and read it. As a result of reading it, I sent the following email to Cochran.org:

      “I am very interested in this review.

      Was any analysis done of the difference between mortality while on the supplements, and mortality after ceasing to use supplements?

      I strongly suspect that the mortality would spike after people cease supplements (particularly Vitamin C) as it takes quite a long time for the body to return to a biochemical balance that strongly scavenges available Vit C from diet. So there should be a substantial increase in mortality risk after ceasing supplementation, and for about 2 years to come back to within 5% of normal.

      Has that analysis been done?

      Can it be done on the datasets available?

      I have done quite a bit of research on this topic over the last 5.5 years.

      Very interested in your response.

      The information has substantial public health implications.”

      I am staying on my Vit C regime.
      I am currently on a minimum regime of 9g twice daily (18g total per day).
      Last week I increased it to 30g per day total for 4 days, as I felt the first faint symptoms of a cold (very slight congestion of sinuses upon waking one morning) – and that was as bad as it got.

      I strongly suspect I know why the data shows the mortality it does, because people cease using the supplements in a rapid fashion, resulting in major loss of immune system function.

      If I ever decided to stop using Vit C (which I doubt I ever will), I would certainly do it very gradually over a two year period. It is a major component of our immune system function, and rapid decrease to zero would result in massive reduction of immune function (with associated huge increase in risk of mortality from otherwise minor infections). The half life for Vit C is about 20 minutes at high concentrations, but if we are on a normal Western diet, very low in Vit C, our systems can adapt to scavenge and hold it and take that half life to about 2 months. The systems cannot adapt rapidly, it takes time.

      So the choice is yours, and I am staying on high dose.
      The medical system told me there was no hope, and I should “Get my affairs in order.”
      The file note given to my GP said “Palliative care only”.

      As a biochemist by training, and a lifelong skeptic, I am confident, beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt, that I owe my continued life to high dose vitamin C, through the boost it gives to my immune system.
      2Kgs lasts me nearly 3 months, and costs $103 delivered (here in NZ).
      It is a lot cheaper than doctors visits, and in high doses it can tend to leach minerals, so mineral supplements are recommended.
      A fascinating and very complex topic – I have spent many hundreds of hours researching and testing on the sample of 1 that is me.

  2. Brent says:

    Hi Rosanne,

    What an amazing story! I just stumbled across your site because a friend informed me about Hydrogen Peroxide and how it helped him. Your site is great and I love reading stories about success! It is very kind of you to share and enable the sharing of valuable information.

    I have only had skin cancer (chemical exposure related in my opinion) and it was removed and called a cure many years ago. So as far as I know I’m cancer free however I lost my Mother to cancer and she wasn’t interested at all in alternatives and she past away. I have always been interested in natural healing and my Mom’s passing led me to much research. I have decided I will not take normal treatment, I will not have anything removed should I ever get it.

    My Grandfather was an extreme “health nut” and his major form of treatment was diet and supplements. He never took the recommended dosage, always way more. He lived to be 92 and he died of a stroke in his sleep and up to that time was very healthy. He was on a blood thinner medication and decided to stop it because of something he read and, well that might have been what killed him. Who knows.

    You brought up an interesting point I felt I had to comment on and have always been interested in. Why do most people rarely get degenerative Heart Disease and Cancer at the same time? I believe the answer could help fight either one of these if it is ever found. Years ago I read an interesting book called Super Immunity. Although it is primarily about the possible causes for Heart Disease, it does a comparison to the personality traits of cancer patients (being the exact opposite) as well. Since reading this book I always do an analysis when I hear someone had one of these diseases, and the traits do stand out in most cases. For e.g.. I’m chatting to this visitor at the hospital and he was explaining that his mom was admitted. He said she is driving everybody nuts with her demands, complaints and just causing mayhem in the hospital ward. In my mind I’m thinking “Heart Attack” while he was talking. I asked him what she was in for and sure enough, Heart Attack. This is one example of so many.

    I truly believe it is the day to day stresses of the typical type A personality that somehow changes the chemistry in the body that naturally fights cancer. On the flip side, how can a type A personality learn to relax and not sweat the little things that destroy their heart etc. I’m well aware of many, many variables in different people etc. but I believe this is a good starting point. I believe the people that live longest have both traits somewhat equally. They are loving, caring, kind and yet they embrace stress and are driven. Question is: how can a cancer patient get stressed, mad and frustrated, cross and driven? I’m speaking relatively of course.

    A friend of mine contacted me and asked me for information about alternative cancer treatments knowing I had researched them. His wife has breast cancer and he wanted to help her. My friend is the opposite of her, analyze, figure out, driven, get answers etc. I explained to him that many cancer patients fully accept what doctors say and generally follow. They do not want to know all the “details” and typically just “give in”. I would imagine these patients are so much easier to treat than heart attack patients.

    After reading the book and realizing I was typical type A years ago I have been gradually trying to change, be more feeling, more relaxed, meditate, and try not to sweat all the little things. ie. I don’t drive like a maniac hammering the steering wheel if I’m running late for an appointment. I’m just late 🙂

    More about supplements, my doctor recommends vitamin D supplement and that is all. Seriously!! This is the only supplement that is good for you? When my Mom was sick and dying the medical profession did nothing in the way of a good diet, supplements etc. I was appalled. But then again, I’m driven….always looking for answers. The medical profession doesn’t suggest anything and actually discourages things that will disrupt their clinical results of their treatments. How sad.

    You mentioned Heart Disease was in your family and I’m curious if you acquired the same personality traits as them. Somehow I do not imagine you standing at the front desk at the hospital after some testing, smashing your fist on the desk demanding answers and yelling at the poor admin., “I need my doctor and I need answers now!!!” Welcome the Heart Attack patient, oh and quite red in the face I might add.

    As a nurse who no doubt has treated many people I would love to hear your comments.

    I look forward to researching the vast information on your site and you are to be commended for this as are all the contributors.
    Cheers.

    I read this post and

    • Rosanne says:

      Thank you so much for your comments. I found it both thought provoking and entertaining. As far as my personality goes I would say most people would have considered me a type A. After all, my career choice was in critical care. I enjoyed the stimulating environment. And when that became too routine I made the career change to Healthcare IT. I guess you could say I enjoy problem-solving. However, after having what I consider a near death experience, I’ve learned to slow down and enjoy my life since it has now become very precious to me.
      I am a bit concerned that you say you will only do alternatives if diagnosed with cancer. Just because the peroxide worked for me doesn’t mean it will work for everyone or every type of cancer. For instance maybe peroxide works well for liver cancer because when taken on an empty stomach the first place it would be absorbed would be the liver. Without clinical trials we cannot know what treatments (both traditional and all the alternative possibilities) would be best for each type of cancer. I feel I was extremely fortunate to find the right combination for me.
      Thank you so much for responding and best wishes to you.
      Rosanne

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