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July 9, 2013 by MAE CHAN
High Dose Vitamin Supplementation Found To Reduce Lifespan Compared To Regular Diet

Research published Biology Letters is supporting previous evidence that high-dose vitamin supplementation may reduce lifespan when compared to a regular diet.

A high intake of vitamin C and vitamin E could 'dramatically' reduce life expectancy by up to 26%, according to new research in rodents.

Researchers investigated the effects of high-dose vitamin supplementation in voles after previous work in mice suggested that a high intake of vitamin C and vitamin C slowed the process of cellular aging and increased life expectancy.

However, the new findings in voles suggest that high-dose supplementation may actually reduce lifespan when compared to a regular diet.

"When we began our research, we expected that voles' lifespans would be boosted by the vitamin supplements in a similar way to the mice we had tested previously, so we were surprised to see that was not the case," said Professor Colin Selman from the University of Glasgow- who led the research.

"Our findings suggest that major differences exist in the effects of high doses of antioxidants on oxidative damage and lifespan across species."

Vitamin E's role in disease prevention has been ambiguous due to several conflicting studies. Research suggests that the Vitamin E found in its natural form in foods such as almonds and sunflower seeds is indeed protective, while synthetic Vitamin E (alpha tocopherol acetate) supplements do not show the same protective effect.

Study Details

Speakman and his team fed field voles a diet supplemented with high levels of vitamin E or vitamin C from the age of two months in either warm or cold conditions and compared their longevity to groups of voles fed a regular diet.

The team found that voles in both cold and warm conditions that were fed supplements of vitamin E or vitamin C lived much shorter on average than those fed a regular diet.

Compared to animals on a regular diet, lifespan was reduced by 11% and 26% for vitamin E and C voles in the cold and by 17% and 18% for vitamin E and C voles in the warm, the team said.

Professor John Speakman from the University of Aberdeen, senior author of the study, said randomised controlled trials examining the effects of antioxidant supplementation on human lifespan are 'unlikely' to be possible, "so we are dependent on the results of animal studies."

Also absent from the study are quality and manufacturing of raw materials used in the supplements which may significantly alter the results. For example, product quality on major manufacturer's supplements show an increased number of binders, colors, and poor quality control which affect absorption and effectiveness. The differences in product quality between supplement manufacturers of vitamins is now staggering.

"It's impossible at this stage to extrapolate the results from this small amount of data we have on voles and mice but it does suggest that caution is warranted in the use of high doses of antioxidant vitamins," said Speakman.

Mae Chan holds degrees in both physiology and nutritional sciences. She is also blogger and and technology enthusiast with a passion for disseminating information about health.

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