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More than 50 percent of all North Americans take vitamin pills, which certainly isn't harmful. However, one in ten take very large doses of vitamins which can be harmful. Not only are you wasting you money on vitamins that you do not need, you also are increasing your risk for heart attacks and certain cancers.

An article in the New England Journal of Medicine shows that taking large doses of antioxidant pills increases your risk for heart attacks. There is no evidence that taking large doses of vitamin pills prevents heart attacks or cancers. Now there is strong evidence that taking large doses of antioxidant vitamins can cause heart attacks.

Researchers at the University of Washington set up a double blind prospective study that meets all the requirements for rigorous scientific dependability. The study included people with heart disease who had low blood levels of the good HDL cholesterol and normal levels of the bad LDL cholesterol. They were divided into four groups and given: a cholesterol-lowering drug plus the vitamin, niacin; antioxidant vitamins A,C,E and selenium alone; a cholesterol-lowering drug plus niacin plus antioxidants; or a placebo. After three years of this rigorous double-blind study, those who received the antioxidants were no better off than those who took placebos. This shows that the antioxidants were useless. And that antioxidants are no more effective than placebo in preventing heart attacks.

The cholesterol-lowering drug plus niacin had spectacular reductions in heart attacks, blocked arteries and a spectacular 42 percent increase in blood levels of the good HDL cholesterol. Those who took the cholesterol-lowering drugs plus niacin plus the antioxidants lost any advantage of the cholesterol-lowering drugs and niacin. Adding antioxidant vitamins to cholesterol-lowering drugs prevented the cholesterol lowering drugs from preventing heart attacks. They had lower level of the good HDL cholesterol, they had more heart attacks, they had more blockage in their arteries.

In this study, heart attack risk was increased by taking 800 international units of vitamin E (double the recommendation), 1000 mg of vitamin C (ten times the recommended dose), 25 mg of natural beta carotenes that forms vitamin A in your body (4 times the recommended amount) and 100 micrograms of selenium (twice the recommended dosage).

If you continue to take large doses of vitamins A,C and E pills, you are not gaining any proven benefit, you are probably wasting your money, and you may also be increasing your risk for heart attacks and cancer.

Smokers who take large doses of vitamin A are at increased risk for lung cancer. People with polyps in their colons who take large doses of vitamin E pills are at increased risk for colon cancer. Cancer cells are held in check by oxidants produced by chemical reactions in your body, and cancer cells take antioxidants inside their cell walls and use the antioxidants to help protect them against your own immunity that is trying to kill them. So the antioxidants that you take can protect cancers from being killed by your immunity.

The next time you pop large doses of vitamin A, C, or E, into your mouth, remember that there is no evidence that large dose of these vitamins pills prevent cancer and heart attacks and there is evidence the large doses of antioxidant vitamin pills increase your risk for heart attacks and cancers.

New England Journal of Medicine, November 29, 2001

June 1st, 2013
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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