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Interest in antioxidants such as vitamins C and E, selenium, and carotenoids has soared in recent years, in large part due to epidemiological studies suggesting that foods rich in these substances reduce the risk of chronic diseases. But a new report from the Institute of Medicine warns that people who ingest these substances in the form of dietary supplements should be aware that benefits are unproven and large doses can harm rather than help.
Recommended intakes of some antioxidants have been increased, and first-ever upper limits have been established.
Based on the available scientific data on both beneficial and harmful health effects of certain antioxidants, a panel of experts said that the recommended daily intake of vitamins C and E should be increased slightly above previous levels. The panel, for the first time ever, also established upper limits to prevent adverse health effects from megadoses, such as diarrhea (from excessive vitamin C) and clotting disorders (from too much vitamin E).
Prepublication copies of the report, Dietary Reference Intakes for Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Selenium, and Carotenoids, may be ordered from the National Academy Press ($45 plus shipping) by calling (202) 334-3313 or (800) 624-6242.
Stephenson J. Easy on the Antioxidants. JAMA. 2000;283(19):2514. doi:10.1001/jama.283.19.2514
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