THE EFFECTS OF NATURAL VITAMINS AND ANTIOXIDANTS
Natural medicinal fungus extracts are components of a healthy lifestyle. In developed countries, 10-40% of the population consume synthetic vitamins and mineral supplements. Among those suffering from cancer or cardivascular diseases, this ratio may be significantly higher. Many laboratory studies and animal experiments, demographic surveys, and controlled clinical trials have been carried out to test the effects of synthetic antioxidants on the human body.
It is not easy to make sense of these studies as some of them recommend taking synthetic vitamins while others reject them and caution that synthetic vitamin supplements may shorten the lives of both healthy and sick people. Comparative surveys, so called meta analyses, may help to make sense of this issue. The best such comparative surveys summarize the results of all „high quality” studies and ignore those whose conclusions and analyses are not reliable, using various criteria to separate the reliable studies from the less reliable conclusions.
The highest quality and most comprehensive study so far was published in 2007 by researchers from Copenhagen. According to the conclusions of this study, the use of vitamins E and A and of beta carotene may shorten life, or may increase mortality rates. This Danish study merely confirmed and complemented the results of other comprehensive studies. For example, there was a comprehensive study in 2005, which summarized the results of 19 clinical trials. According to this analysis, the use of vitamin E shortens lifespan depending on the dosage. According to one of the ultimate arguments of the synthetic vitamin industry, vitamins help primarily those suffering from various diseases, e.g. vitamins may reduce the mortality rate among those suffering from heart disease.
Already in 2003, an article was published which concluded from highly rigorous clinical trials that supplementation of synthetic vitamins does not increase the chance of survival among heart disease patients. Countless studies have also cautioned that among cancer patients, smokers, and other people susceptible to cancer, the use of synthetic vitamins and certain mineral supplements may be particularly harmful.
One of the latest studies (2007) concluded that among those susceptible to prostate cancer, the use of high-dose synthetic multivitamins and mineral supplements (in particular beta carotene, selenium, and zinc) increases the chance of developing advanced and ultimately lethal prostate cancer.
Previously, other studies had concluded that among smokers and people suffering from breast, head, neck, and gastrointestinal tumors, synthetic vitamins and mineral supplements (except for seleniu) might aid the development and resurgence of tumors.
Among those that do not suffer from vitamin and mineral deficiencies, the use of synthetic vitamin and mineral supplements may have dire consequences depending on the dosage. Naturally, the vitamin industry will refer to certain studies which appear to prove the opposite, but as we can see, those studies—regardless of how numerous they are—are not comparabe in quality to the high quality clinical studies used by the meta analyses.
What could be the reason that synthetic antioxidant supplements, especially when consumed in large quantities, may harm the body?
Cancerous cells that suffer from multiple genetic defects typically destroy themselves before they become cancer cells. Synthetic antioxidants may hinder this self-destruct mechanism, as the cells need free radicals for such a process, which the antioxidants may reduce in the body. Similarly, synthetic vitamins and mineral supplements may hinder the work of the immune system, reducing the body’s ability to fight bacteria, viruses, and cancer cells, as certain immune cells also need free radicals to carry out their function.
It is a new discovery that synthetic vitamins may weaken the body’s internal defenses against free radicals as well. In a study on mice, long-term supplementation of synthetic vitamin C weakened the body’s internal defenses against oxidative damage, thus canceling the antioxidant effect of vitamin C. Oxidative processes play an important role in the normal functioning of the nervous system, aid healthy brain function, and are indespensible in controling sleep-wake cycles.
A common question in cancer research is how to judge the role of calcium, as this is a very commonly consumed mineral. Calcium may help in impeding the development of colon tumors (adenoma) and polyps; on the other hand, it may increase the chance of developing advanced stage prostate cancer. Therefore its use must be evaluated on a case by case basis. Oversupplementation of the very popular mineral zinc may aid the development of serious cases of prostate cancer.
In the prevention of cancer and cardiovascular disease, the most important elements are a healthy lifetsyle, exercise, a diet rich in natural fruits and vegetables, and the avoidance of processed meats and tobacco. It is worth mentioning the outstanding performance of natural fungus and apigenin extracts in the prevention and treatment of cancer, and in reducing the harmful side effects of chemotherapy and radiation therapy. The patkonyelv (phellinus linteus?) fungus may be helpful in strengthening the immune system, the lepkefu fungus or the lingzhi or reishi fungus in preventing cardiovascular disease and diabetes, the kigyoszal fungus in aiding normal brain function. Fungus extracts protect healthy cells via their antioxidant properties, while they aid in eliminating damaged cells from the body by targeted free radical formation. Certain fungus extracts may contribute to the prevention of osteoporosis (e.g. extract of hen-of- the-woods mushroom, grifola frondosa) and may improve the body’s resistance under elevated physical and mental stress (e.g. extract of caterpillar mushroom, ophiocordyceps sinensis). The extract of the acerola fruit and its extract is rich in vitamins, flavonoids, and minerals, and it may improve the absorption of medicinal fungus extracts.