The finding drew fire from critics who said it was flawed and based largely on studies of people who were already chronically ill before they were treated with the supplements.
Tuesday's report related only to synthetic supplements and not to fruits and vegetables in everyday diets which are natural and contain less concentrated levels of antioxidants, said the study from the Centre for Clinical Intervention Research at Denmark's Copenhagen University Hospital.
Gary Moller comments:
Over the last year I have shifted away from advocating anything other than supplements that are from natural food sources. This is due to concern that the synthetic copies of naturally occuring vitamins and other nutrients may not improve health and may even have a deleterious effect.
It is sensible to be cautious about the small one-per-day capsule that claims to contain every known vitamin, mineral and antioxidant needed by Man. To get all of that into such a small container probably means the contents are from pure synthetic sources. Supplements that are derived from natural sources, like herbs, look and smell like food concentrates and are usually the size of horse pills. Other forms for the Purists among us are elixirs like the Floradix range that are certified organic plant concentrates.
Synthetic vitamin E is not the same as the natural substance, nor is vitamin A. In their natural forms these vitamins actually include hundreds of different compounds (co-factors) that work together to do their healthy work. Pure synthetic Vitamin A, for example, can be highly toxic and is implicated in birth defects and should only be taken in small amounts, if ever. The natural form of vitamin A is derived from sources like egg yolk, butter and cod liver oil are very safe to take, despite the dire warnings that may come on the labels.
Funny isn't it? - Many of the best foods that contain the essential fats, minerals, vitamins and proteins are the ones that are bad for you - eggs, liver and butter! These are the high cholesterol foods that don't get the Heart Foundation tick. Do they really believe that margarine with synthetic vitamin A and cancer-producing trans-fatty acids is really better for you than pure New Zealand butter?
There is also the debate about "more being better". Of course, this is not the case and one should errr on the conservative side with vitamins unless the evidence tells you otherwise.
As an observation, when people with chronic health problems do consult me, there is usually more than a few signs of nutritional deficiency, such as magensium deficiency or low vitamin D. Often supplements are being taken but these may be synthetics that are poorly targetted to need. Another potential pitfall is to be taking too much of a single vitamin which may create an imbalance with others - nutrients need to be in balance with each other to be able to do their work.
So, take vitamins; but ensure they are mostly from natural sources. Take according to established need. Continue to ensure that your diet is your principal source of quality nutrients - quality meats, fruits, nuts, vegetables and whole grains.