Angry Toxicologist

It’s been too long a wait for someone to do a study like this. In the wake of the large study that found that vitamin supplements are not helpful and some may be harmful, we have a simple study that should have been done long ago to determine if it’s the fruit and veggies or the anti-oxidants that are beneficial.

Let’s back up here. Vitamin supplements haven’t really been shown to effect actual health outcomes in large studies. Vitamin C has the best evidence going for it, but even that’s shaky. We just took the supplements (me included) because, logically, they should work to reduce oxidative stress. Not so surprisingly, the media took off with these speculations and it became the conventional wisdom. Surprisingly, science never really challenged this conventional wisdom until recently.

This study looked at whether there was a difference between Orange Juice (they used blood oranges), Vitamin C alone, or sugar water in protecting against oxidative damage. The authors had participants take one of the three drinks and took blood samples every hour for 8 hrs and then at 24 hrs. The blood samples where treated with hydrogen peroxide (a strong oxidizer) and the DNA damage to mononuclear blood cells was measured. Starting at 3 hrs and up to at least 24 hrs after drinking, the orange juice protected the cells while the vitamin C drink and sugar water had no effect in the study. Something else is going on with the orange juice that can’t be reduced to just vitamin C. Much more needs to be done but this is a great start (it would be nice if someone could do a bridging study using navel oranges or similar; they are all citrus sinensis but different hybrids, I think). The big question remaining in my mind is where the media coverage is.

Well, now we know you can’t get out of eating right with a pill. It doesn’t work with losing weight and it doesn’t work for getting nutrients. The good news is that 1) you don’t have to worry about what pills you should be taking and 2) OJ is not only really good for you, it’s tasty too.

PS This is the last day that you can give the FDA comment on the proposed change to allow chocolate to be made without cocoa butter, which is pretty essential, and instead with other vegatable fats. In other words, something that’s not chocolate will be able to be labeled chocolate. If you don’t want to be bamboozled into buying the next Mockolate, go to Don’t Mess With Our Chocolate to learn more and how to comment.


  1. #1 Lepht
    July 19, 2007

    yo, i’m your information-security literate overeducated bastard of a newest follower, name’s Lepht. i see American chocolate is going the way of British chocolate. one thing, though – people can’t tell the goddamn difference. seriously, kids won’t know they’re getting vegolate, which is why the UK government gets away with it.


  2. #2 Ryan
    July 19, 2007

    After a quick read of the initial paper you linked to (JAMA 2002), I find it odd that you summarized it by saying “vitamin supplements are not helpful.” I’m as skeptical as the next guy, but the authors seem to think that for a few (folate, vitamin E, vitamin D), the best current conclusion is that supplementation is beneficial, while for only the carotenoids does supplementation present a clear risk (and apparently only to smokers).

    I’d like to hear your thoughts on this.

  3. #3 angrytoxicologist
    July 19, 2007

    Whoops! Wrong link. I fixed it so if you click on the link above it should work.
    It’s a 2007 paper in JAMA.

    Thanks for alerting me to that! I like when people read the links!

    Conclusion from the correct paper: “Treatment with beta carotene, vitamin A, and vitamin E may increase mortality. The potential roles of vitamin C and selenium on mortality need further study.”

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