Many people take antioxidant supplements in the hope of extending their lives but they may actually be increasing their risk of premature death, say researchers from Copenhagen University in Denmark.
In this study, researchers reviewed 67 studies with more than 230,000 subjects to see whether antioxidant vitamins - vitamins C, E, A, beta-carotene and selenium - prolonged life expectancy.
Antioxidants help protect the body from free-radicals, highly reactive molecules capable of causing damage to cells in the brain and other tissues.
People who took supplements had a 13 percent death rate compared to a 10 percent death rate for people who did not take supplements. The cause of death was not tracked in this study.
Vitamin C, often taken in an attempt to ward off colds, was found to have no positive or negative effects. Selenium also had no effect on life expectancy.
Vitamins A and E, often used for bone and heart health, increased rates of mortality, as did beta-carotene, which is pre-formed vitamin A.
Previous studies linked single vitamin supplements, like beta-carotene, to ahigher risk of lung cancer in smokers.
Health experts say most people are able to meet their vitamin and mineral requirements by eating a balanced and varied diet, that includes plenty of fruit and vegetables rich in naturally-occurring antioxidants.
While supplements may be taken in certain circumstances (such as during pregnancy), this study suggests the general healthy population does not need an antioxidant supplement.
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