February 27, 2007 – WASHINGTON, D.C – The Natural Products Association today disputed the conclusions of a new meta-analysis appearing in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) suggesting that the use of antioxidants might increase mortality risk, saying that the study was scientifically misleading and that most clinical research continues to show that antioxidants are safe and beneficial.
“Despite the authors’ contention, this analysis is assessing mortality of at-risk and diseased populations – versus a healthy population – in prevention trials. The risk of mortality must be attributed to the appropriate population studied, those with an existing health condition, which it isn't in this case. Instead, those findings are generalized to a healthy general population, which is wrong on many levels,” said Daniel Fabricant, Ph.D., vice president of scientific affairs for the Natural Products Association. “But what’s most troubling is that people who are safely and beneficially taking vitamins might stop, which may actually put their health at greater risk.”
Fabricant also expressed concern that most consumers, who are daily confronted with seemingly contradictory research findings, may understandably become confused and skeptical about such information.
“Just yesterday, for instance, a group of Swedish researchers concluded that vitamin A may help reduce some risks of stomach cancer,” said Fabricant. “And ironically, this same medical journal has released a stream of studies suggesting the health benefits of antioxidants; from reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease and macular degeneration, to helping improve immune functioning in patients with HIV spectrum disease.”
Other points to be considered in the context of this analysis follow:
If a true mortality risk was to have become apparent in any of these clinical studies using antioxidants, the study would have been halted. None were. Using these same studies to now draw different conclusions is an indictment of those researchers who conducted the original study and never observed the same outcome or halted the trial.
Nearly 160 million people in North America and Europe use the attributed supplements. If antioxidants were a significant public health risk, as the authors speculate, it would have become clearly apparent by now. This is obviously not the case: the negative effect they refer to has not been seen in the population.
The initial hurdle for performing a clinically meaningful meta-analysis is the criteria for how similar the studies must be in order to be included in the meta-analysis. The more similar the studies, the more valid the meta-analysis. In this instance the studies are very divergent and the conclusion of the meta-analysis is not consistent with the findings of the actual clinical studies. In addition, large controlled clinical studies on antioxidants exist and the data from those studies will be much more meaningful and relevant than a piecemeal meta-analysis like this.
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Tracy Taylor 202-204-4723 (office); 202-641-3752 (cell)