The truth about antioxidant supplements - Food for the Brain

The truth about antioxidant supplements

There’s a big misunderstanding about vitamin supplements by many medical authorities and researchers. They think of vitamins like drugs and ask questions such as ‘will vitamin C or vitamin E supplements improve cognition or reduce dementia risk?’ This fits in very well with the much worshipped ‘double blind randomised placebo controlled trial’ giving half the ‘subjects’ in a study a dummy pill and the other half the vitamin or drug. There’s nothing ‘wrong’ with this and, in the case if vitamin C and E, there is some evidence of benefit.

These kind of studies cost millions and since vitamins are unpatentable, who pays for them? Governments put up almost no money for such prevention research, so very few studies get carried out. A number of key vitamins, as measured in food and in the blood, do correlate with decreased risk. These include vitamin C , both in food and supplements and vitamin E in supplements. Vitamin E has been found to be beneficial in mild to moderate AD by slowing the decline of cognition. A study supplementing vitamin E and selenium was not found to be protective. Nacetyl cysteine, the precursor of glutathione, Co-enzymeQ10 and resveratrol, found in red grapes, is also neuroprotective.

Do you remember this film ‘‘Keeping Your Brain Young with Antioxidants’? Watch it here. It shows that antioxidants are team players. Much like dementia prevention is a combination of the 8 domains which all influence each other, antioxidants are part of a network keeping you healthy.

It doesn’t really make a lot of sense to give one without the others. All those listed above – vitamin C, E, glutathione and N-acetyl cysteine, CoenzymeQ10 and resveratrol – work together as you’ll see in the film.

There are many other team player ‘cousins’, from B vitamins to minerals such as magnesium, zinc and selenium.

The first step is to eat ‘whole’ foods, and seafood, that are more likely to contain these kinds of nutrients but, as you have learnt with vitamin C, just eating whole foods doesn’t guarantee you are achieving optimum nutrition.

Most nutritional therapists supplement extra vitamin C and some supplement an all-round antioxidant supplement providing the nutrients listed above. There’s very good logic, and supporting evidence to do this, especially if you’re over 50 years old, even if there isn’t that definitive ‘randomised placebo controlled trial’ yet.