Placebos for breakfast, anyone?

Hey Mom, can I say “I told you so” yet?

For years – decades – I have been obnoxious in my resistance to the scientific approach to eating, including such things as counting calories, measuring fats, and paying attention to Recommended Daily Allowances of vitamins, minerals, proteins and carbohydrates. I never believed there was anything wrong with eating eggs, so I felt vindicated several years back when it turned out that the whole cholesterol thing was very poorly understood, and that eggs might be all right after all.

Now here comes another study – still “preliminary,” of course – suggesting that vitamin supplements can kill you.

For the latest study, the researchers examined the role of vitamins A, C, E and betacarotene (which is converted into vitamin A in the body) and the mineral selenium, taken either singly or in combination.

They investigated their effect against cancers of the oesophagus (gullet), stomach, bowel, pancreas and liver.

The results showed that a combination of betacarotene and vitamin A increased the death rate by 30 per cent and betacarotene combined with vitamin E increased it by 10 per cent. Selenium was associated with a lower risk of cancer, but the authors say this could be due to bias.

A possible explanation for the findings is that people may vary in their need for antioxidants (vitamins) according to the circulating levels of substances known as free radicals in the blood. Those with high levels of free radicals need extra vitamins to neutralise them but in those with low levels, extra vitamins may paradoxically protect cancer cells and have carcinogenic effects.

I think I’ll have another bowl of the Chocolate-Frosted Sugar Bombs.

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Dave Bonta (bio) crowd-sources his problems by following his gut, which he shares with 100 trillion of his closest microbial friends — a close-knit, symbiotic community comprising several thousand species of bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. In a similarly collaborative fashion, all of Dave’s writing is available for reuse and creative remix under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. For attribution in printed material, his name (Dave Bonta) will suffice, but for web use, please link back to the original. Contact him for permission to waive the “share alike” provision (e.g. for use in a conventionally copyrighted work).

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