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Supplements to avoid - flaxseed oil, copper, beta carotene, chondroitin sulfate - Dr Snuffy Myers


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At this morning's phone-in support meeting, Dr Snuffy Myers advice on flaxseed oil came up.

In this is an extract from a PAACT newsletter (Vol 26 No 4 Dec 2010), Dr Myers advises:

Broadly speaking, I prefer my patients to get their nutrition

from their diet and if they adopt the Mediterranean

diet, this should not prove to be a problem. I think most

multivitamins are a joke and generally should never be

used. I am also concerned because of one report that the

more multivitamins a man takes, the more likely he is

to have a problem with prostate cancer.

I have repeatedly discussed my concerns with flaxseed

oil. The major argument in favor of this oil is that it is a

rich source of omega three fats. However, the available

evidence shows that the omega three fat in flaxseed oil

is much less effective than that found in fish. I simply

cannot find any scientific basis for its continued use.

Flaxseed oil, under the name of linseed oil, does make

fine basis for paint.

Chondroitin sulfate is another supplement that I have

concerns about. It is commonly used in over-the-counter

supplements for joint pain. My first problem is

that we lack convincing evidence that this works. My

second problem has to do with a similarity between the

biochemistry of the joint surface and prostate cancer

cells. On the joint surface, chondroitin binds to a protein

called versican and in this way is supposed to make

the joint surface better lubricated. However, versican

is found on the surface of prostate cancer cells and is

associated with aggressive cancers. It has been postulated

that versican in some way helps the cancer avoid

the immune system, but this is pretty much conjecture.

So, this is a supplement of dubious value and theoretical


Beta carotene is commonly incorporated into multivitamins

and patients will often take it as a separate

supplement. But, we now have three large randomized

controlled trials where beta carotene was associated

with an increase in prostate cancer issues. So, until I

see convincing evidence to the contrary, I recommend

patients not take pills with beta carotene. I do not have a

problem with foods rich in beta carotene as those foods

contain a rich mixture of potentially valuable nutrients

and there is no evidence that these foods offer anything

like the risk of beta carotene in pill form.

Copper is widely added to multivitamins and other supplements.

Yet, there is one provocative study in which

the induction of copper deficiency arrested progression

of prostate cancer. The results of that trial suggested

that the cancer needed the copper more than the patient

did! I think extra copper should only be taken if deficiency

is documented. This is yet another example of

how multivitamins might actually be harmful.

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