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Pills that make you ill?


Another health scare made front page news this week. A Danish study pooling 67 randomised trials with 232,550 participants concluding that taking "beta-carotene, vitamin A, and vitamin E significantly increased mortality". And taking vitamin C had "no significant benefit".

The mass media attention is fuelled by our mistrust of 'nasty chemicals' which we forget are in natural foods as well as - in pure form - in test tubes.

The BBC website reports that "After various factors were taken into account and a further 20 studies excluded, the researchers linked vitamin A supplements to a 16% increased risk of dying, beta-carotene to a 7% increased risk and vitamin E to a 4% increased risk." Scary stuff? Maybe, considering how many vitamins are both naturally present in and added to foods, including bread and cereals. How many realise synthetic vitamin A is added to cod liver oil pills, usually taken as a traditional 'natural' remedy?

One blogger at least believes it is all lies, damn lies and statistics. Letters from a Tory reports that the studies used on average a dose of around 8 times the recommended amount for vitamin A, and other averages were also well above recommended amounts. 

Does that make pills that deliver 100% of RDA 100% safe?  I still somehow doubt it, so I'll mostly be sticking to as much fruit and veg as possible, including my own list of so-called 'superfoods' which, whatever the exact merits of the claims made for them, just happen to be delicious:

  • Broccoli: rich in vitamins A and C and anti-cancer ingredients, reduces cholesterol and has anti-viral benefits*
  • Garlic: regulates blood pressure, anti-viral and good for the heart
  • Mushrooms: anti-viral
  • Spinach: high in beta-carotene, good for the eyes, bones and more*
  • Cooked tomatoes: anti-cancer properties, anti-inflammatory*
  • Watercress: anti-cancer properties
  • Turmeric: anti-inflammatory and anti-viral, resists Alzheimers
  • Ginger: anti-oxidant, anti-coagulant, promotes healing
  • Oily fish: anti-viral and good for the heart
  • Raw olive oil: anti-inflammatory and cholesterol lowering
  • Apples: cholesterol lowering, eliminate toxins*
  • Blueberries: over-hyped but taste good!*
  • Cranberries: good for the kidney
  • Grapefruit: anti-coagulant, and more
  • Kiwifruit: high in vitamin C, anti-oxidant, eye protecting*
  • Pineapple: anti-inflammatory
  • Pomegranate: good for the heart?
  • Strawberries: lower blood pressure, anti-ageing and good for the heart
  • Walnuts: anti-inflammatory and cholesterol lowering*
  • Green tea: anti-oxidant and makes you feel good
  • Dark chocolate: lowers blood pressure and makes you feel good
  • Red wine: lowers cholesterol and makes you feel good
*I'm able to cut down on food miles by growing these at home.

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