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Antioxidant Supplements Increase Mortality

In my video Industry Response to Plants Not Pills, I discuss a famous study that started so many down the wrong track. Thousands of men were followed for 19 years, and there was a stepwise drop in risk of lung cancer for smokers who got more and more beta-carotene in their diet. Researchers estimated this simply by adding up how much fruit, vegetables, and soup the men ate. So, did they start treating smokers with fruit, veggies, and soup? No, they gave them beta-carotene pills. However, those taking the pills got more lung cancer than those who didn’t, and there were more deaths from lung cancer, heart disease, and stroke, and a shorter average lifespan overall. This didn’t stop them from trying it over and over again, though. Six more studies were performed, and beta-carotene pills continued to increase mortality. In a compilation of 20 other studies in which they gave beta-carotene and other antioxidant supplements, mortality was significantly increased.

As one study pointed out, “An obvious conclusion is that isolated nutrients are drugs, but not studied or regulated as drugs, and perhaps they should be. Food, on the other hand, needs to be treated in a different way, cognisant of the food synergy concept.” The whole food is greater than the sum of its parts.

Yes, low beta-carotene levels in the blood increase the risk of heart disease mortality, but that’s basically just saying low intake of carrot, pumpkin, collard greens, and kale increases the risk of heart disease mortality or that there is a carrot, spinach, and sweet potato deficiency in the United States.

It is true that the more carotenoids we have in our blood, the healthier we may be. However, we should consider the following cautionary advice: “Though unscrupulous marketers may use the carotenoid health index for selling dietary supplements, responsible scientists and food producers need to emphasize the use of foods and whole food products to improve [blood] carotenoid concentrations.”

Indeed, “[w]e can now see that giving supplements of [beta]-carotene was a misguided way to prevent cancer. Instead, researchers should have sought to determine which foods have the most convincing negative association with cancer” and then put those fruits and vegetables to the test in randomized controlled trials.

“‘Science’ tends to be reductionist, looking for discrete causes and effects. It is hard to get food studies past peer grant reviewers unless they take the food apart, which seems to us to miss the point.” “The key is to encourage consumers to increase the total amount to 9 to 13 servings of fruits and vegetables” every day.

“The past 30 years have seen the development of an enormous body of evidence on the importance of plant-based foods in preventing or reducing the risk of chronic disease.” However, “despite broadly disseminated public information programs on how to eat healthily…it is extremely difficult to get people to change their diets.”

One proposed solution is to add back the health-promoting phytonutrients that are missing from many convenience foods. By eating more fruits and vegetables? No, silly, by genetically engineering phytonutrients into fast food. People eat ketchup, not kale, so who needs greens when you can genetically engineer high-folate tomatoes? Why buy berries when you can make tomatoes purple by stitching in two genes from snapdragons to make transgenic tomatoes? Instead of soybean burgers, we can have soybean genes in the ketchup on our burgers. And you’ve heard of grape tomatoes? How about really grape tomatoes?

Pills are more profitable than plants, but when pills don’t work, industry will try patenting the produce itself.

I’ve talked about this kind of reductionist thinking before:

There actually may be benefits to patenting produce, though. See my Plants as Intellectual Property: Patently Wrong? video.

What about the GMOs that are already on the market? See:

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my live, year-in-review presentations:


Michael Greger M.D., FACLM

Michael Greger, M.D. FACLM, is a physician, New York Times bestselling author, and internationally recognized professional speaker on a number of important public health issues. Dr. Greger has lectured at the Conference on World Affairs, the National Institutes of Health, and the International Bird Flu Summit, testified before Congress, appeared on The Dr. Oz Show and The Colbert Report, and was invited as an expert witness in defense of Oprah Winfrey at the infamous "meat defamation" trial.

128 responses to “Antioxidant Supplements Increase Mortality

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    1. He’s not. Also caps lock yelling doesn’t add to any point. In the case of B12 and D it has been discussed ad nauseum on here that modern living and hygiene limit our access to them. But let’s just focus on B12 like you mentioned: Long story short our sterilization across the board has minimized our likelihood of ingesting adequate B12 regardless of diet type. In our practice I’ve seen hundreds of clients who are anemic and low on B12. How many were plant based? Zero so far. B12 supplementation is cheap, easy, and the body can effectively throttle it’s intake and excretion. The recommendation of 250mcg/day or 2500mcg once a week certainly don’t qualify as megadoses (which would be concerning and more to your point) and exist only to provide an adequate amount for the average person. There is a whole series of videos on B12 on the site here you may want to brush up on as well for further clarifications.

      1. In fact: about 50micrograms/ day seems to be the safe dosage of VitB12 to be taken by men according to the mentioned study. How can you swipe this results easily away?  What really bothering me is that some studies are taken into account while others are easily neglected without giving transparency about the criteria why doing so. For example: There ist a huge huge huge body of evidence for the benefits one extra virgin olive oil but Mr Greger is trying to make one believe that it is not…That ist very strange for me. Since I try to dig into the studies and becoming aware of all the complexity Mr Gregers easy digital answers often are supported only by pieces of evidence, not by the big picture…

          1. So ONLY Dr. Greger presents the evidence in the interest of our education and ultimately, our well being?

            Oh dear, that sounds rather selective doesn’t it?

            Nobody else should bother to speak-up if that is the case; science is dead.

            1. No Navy Corpsman, I typed the name Dr Greger with bold emphasis because Kamut repeatedly addressed him (disrespectfully imo) as Mr Greger. And further, Kamut seems unaware of the intention behind this site by his last sentence. Anyway, A-aron responded to Kamut’s comments, so it’s all good.

        1. Kamut,

          There are two types of B12.

          The cyano version is the one you are talking about where it is a lower dosage, because it works more efficiently.

          The methyl doesn’t work at low doses.

          That isn’t as stable and isn’t absorbed as readily.

          Dr Greger gave two different B12 dosage answers based on studies for optimal dosage – based on how it brought homocysteine down.

          It was studues, which determined the dosage, but I think you are confusing the two answers.

          1. No, actually there are at least 3 types of B12, (hydroxocobalamin). Methyl life has all 3 in there supplements. I am not recommending them, just post

        1. More baseless criticisms Richard. Click thiugh on the links provided to see the evidence supporting his statements. If you have criticisms why not provide some references to substantiate your comments?

          Why are you here again?

      1. Renate-Kamut-Blair, DOCTOR Greger just compiles and reports on the body of science, what you do with it is up to you. Feel free to eat dirt, lick feces, or drink from a microbe and bacterial infested pond to get your B-12 like our ancestors did. Or maybe just suffer from the risks of deficiency instead. It is certainly your choice, there are no B-12 police.

        1. DOCTOR Greger just compiles and reports on the body of science, …

          That is what he usually does. This time he forgot to do his job.

          He made an absurd blanket statement that had nothing to do with the facts.

        2. Fermenting fiber contains B vitamins, that’s where animals get it. No feces licking is required.

          Butt kissing might be of some value I suppose.

    2. Another “scare” article generated by the American Pharmaceutical Industry.
      Sound familiar…..”If you’re on 3 or more anti-depressants and you’re STILL depressed you might consider adding ABILIFY to your regimen”……then they’ll go on to tell you all the nasty side-effects you’re likely to get if you actually buy into this baloney or take this drug! Complete lunacy!! They’ll never tell anyone to quit smoking, drinking, or to go to the gym and start exercising! That would cut into their profits, wouldn’t it?

        1. Tom, I had thought that would be the case, but had never investigated it.

          It just made sense. I have said it to people as a joke, but here it is.

          “Increasingly, Big Pharma and Big Herba are indistinguishable,” claims Parramore. “The very same mega-companies with gigantic chemical labs that make drugs are cooking up vitamin and herbal supplements labeled with sunny terms like ‘natural’ and ‘wholesome.’ Pfizer, Unilever, Novartis, GlaxoSmithKline and other big pharmaceutical firms make or sell supplements.” While she does acknowledge there are a few small companies still in the mix, Parramore says they represent a tiny amount of the total sales in the $23 billion-a-year supplement business.

    3. Unfortunately I cannot quote the name of the researcher, but he was a significant nutritional scientist back in the eighties. He maintained that synthetic vitamins had a different molecular spin to their natural alternatives. Right handedness verses left handedness is known to cause substantial differences in the way nature handles the product. (Bacteria will attack one but not the other etcetera.) All synthetic nutrients including B12 feed cancer in my opinion and experience. Synthetic vit c causes cancer according to the Linus Pauling Institute when administered in large doses. I think you will find that this selective idea of picking on one nutrient is shallow.

      1. Yes, it is called chirality. Unfortunately this information is not available on the label. Sometimes if you dig deep enough you can find the chirality or molecular “spin” of a supplement.

        Personally I avoid synthetic vitamins and try to get supplements that are sourced from natural foods. That should provide the natural chiral twist.

      2. Kahl

        I don’t know where you get these claims from but my understanding is that the Linus Pauling Institute’s conclusion, after reviewing all the evidence, is that

        “Vitamin C (L-ascorbic acid) is available in many forms, but there is little scientific evidence that any one form is better absorbed or more effective than another. Most experimental and clinical research uses ascorbic acid or its sodium salt, called sodium ascorbate. Natural and synthetic L-ascorbic acid are chemically identical and there are no known differences in their biological activities or bioavailabilities (132).”

        It’s always best to fact-check sensational or otherwise extraordinary claims found on the internet or in trashy popular health books, before repeating them as supposed simple statements of fact..

      3. Linus Pauling showed that all the various synthetic Vitamin Cs were roughly equivalent. Simple molecule, nothing special.

        He lived to be 93 taking huge doses of cheap synthetic Vitamin C every day.

        1. That is an anecdote with a sample size of 1. And therefore scientifically meaningless. Because you cannot prove that LP lived to 93 due to taking huge doses of vitamin C. Maybe he did, maybe he didn’t. That’s not science.

          1. He also says that: 90% or more of the vitamins and supplements now on the market labeled as “natural” or “food based” actually are spiked with synthetic chemicals.

            So, 90%+ of the vitamins labeled food based can be up to 90% synthetic.

            That is already 90% too much deception for me, even before they don’t have the actual product in it.

            1. Or should I say that is 90% squared too much deception for me?

              I wonder if they are nice enough to leave out the toxic fillers when they leave out the product?

              Or is it that people are just taking “toxic filler” supplements in 50% of the brands.

              1. When I looked up the aloe with no aloe actually in it, there were so many brands and so many big stores.

                I just looked up a few of the Whole Food Plant Based to see if they were GMP.

                I didn’t see MegaFood, New Chapter, and Garden of Life on the GMP list.

                It really gets complicated if 90% of them are up to 90% synthetic and 50% of them don’t have the product and the whole food brands aren’t GMP.

                I went to Consumer Labs, but they don’t talk about warnings like the lycopene warning. They actually recommend lycopene.

                I would like a genuinely neutral agency. Not someone recommending supplements to do that work.

                1. Has anyone bought their reports?

                  I understand that the reports tell whether the product is in the product by brand.

                  Does the report from Consumer Labs also tell which toxic fillers are in by supplement by brand?

                  1. That upsets me about Consumer Labs.

                    They are telling which supplements work for what and not which to avoid.

                    That is irresponsible for someone doing an authority figure testing site.

                    More than one of the things I clicked on there missed the warning studies Dr Greger just gave in his Mens Health podcast.

    4. Renate,

      Dr. Greger showed the curve of optimal dose for B-12 and suggested not taking too much and said that people will get expensive pee if they take more. If I am remembering right, there was an increase in homocysteine again if they went too high – more U Shaped results, but either way, Dr. Greger showed it.

      He has talked about Folate and cancer.

      Is there an actual study saying mega-doses of B-12 is harmful? (There ARE risks from NOT having enough of it, so that one would be don’t take too much, so far, in my mind.)

      I looked it up and will look up Folic Acid and B-12:

      “Studies of folic acid supplementation are raising flags about the potential risks of therapy, possibly as a result of excessive consumption. One of the most startling was a study that looked at folic acid supplementation in patients with colorectal adenomas, which are cancer precursors. Participants were randomized to folic acid 1mg or placebo for up to six years. While it was hypothesized that folic acid would provide a protective effect, the results were disappointing. Not only did folic acid have no effect on adenoma incidence (even in those with low folate status), there was a significant increase in the risk of non-colorectal cancers (10.5% vs. 6.3%), due mainly to an excess of prostate cancers.

      Futher worrying evidence emerged in 2009, when a Norwegian study of heart failure patients was published. Researchers randomized almost 7000 patients to folic acid and vitamin B12 versus other vitamins or placebo. The vitamins significantly raised the risks of both cancer and all-cause mortality, driven mainly by more cases of lung cancer. On balance, looking at heart disease, folic acid supplementation don’t seem to have any persuasive effects, either. In combination with other B-vitamins to lower homocysteine levels it hasn’t been shown to have meaningful effects on cardiovascular disease prevention, either.

      The same worrying cancer signal has appeared with breast cancer in postmenopausal women, even while dietary folate seems to be beneficial. And in studies looking at prostate cancer, when folic acid is combined with other vitamins, the data are unclear.

      So could fortification be causing harm? While correlations have been drawn between food fortification and population studies of colorectal cancer, causality hasn’t been established. Screening rates or other factors could be contributing. Still, the idea is troubling, even though the harms (if real) are slight compared to the demonstrable and significant benefits fortification has played in reducing NTDs.”

      1. Deb, Why on earth would you want to take too much of anything? Besides, the guidelines on B12 are simple. And getting enough is cheap.

  1. I understand that this is a WFPB site. But I think you could have posted some evidence that shows supplement interventions can indeed prolong life.

    I take a lot of supplements. I’m probably spotting you 30 years, but barring an act of God (accident, malicious attack etc.) I fully expect to outlive you. ‘-)

    1. And just where is this evidence that supplement use decreases total mortality risk, Lonie?

      All the marijuana users wanted him to post evidence that it is harmless or even beneficial. The red wine drinkers wanted him to post evidence that it is harmless or healthy. This is’t too different. And Dr Greger does recommend certain supplements

        1. Lonie, isn’t it true that there are 10’s of thousands of phytonutrients in any given fruit or vegetable–the tomato, for example? How do you pick a supplement? You have to eat the whole food to get the “whole” benefit, don’t you?

            1. I agree with and do what you do Lonie. If I gather the supplements from plants or mushrooms, I know what they are. Some are dried, some are ground, but all of them are exactly what I picked them to be.

            2. The link you gave, they were using both natural and chemical Silymarin.

              Not supplements.

              It says that they are going to try tests with a very purified form.

              But that, I think is the point. You can grow your own and pick your own and grind it up and then, you know what you get when you put it in the capsule and that is what many of these scientists do. but that is not the form most supplements come in.

              Some may, but even most of the natural foods supplements use chemicals. The paper I read said that 90% of them use chemicals and that they are allowed to call themselves “natural” and “whole food” if 10% of the product is food.

              They also use fillers, which can be toxic.

              That is the greater issue, which is why Dr. Greger does these studies.

              People are likely to die from their supplements.

              It puts a great burden on his shoulders to wait for double blind studies proving any of them effective and he does seem willing to post it when there are studies.

              I know that you want him to post topics, before the double blind studies, but that is not what he does as a WFPB doctor. He is reading the journals and is giving the information. If there is ever a good study, I feel sure we will see it here.

        2. My internet search yerms were eg “study” and “pubmed”, “supplement” and “mortality”

          I had a quick look at your link to some blogger’s website. Yes, some of those things have increased lifespan in mice, rats and worms (apparently).

          But blogs don’t do it for me. Why don’t you post references to serious studies in the scientific literature on the effects on mortality in humans of anti oxidant supplements?

          I posted elsewhere a review funded by the European Community on the health effects on humans of vitamin D supplementation. However, vitamin D isn’t an antioxidant. If you are so convinced that Dr G is ignoring evidence that anti oxidants increase human longevity, why not post that evidence here for us all to see?

          Really, if all you want is selected evidence to justify your beliefs in taking supplements, you should be on the Life Extension Foundation website

          1. But blogs don’t do it for me.

            You do understand why I see the humor in that statement. The above posting by Dr. Greger IS a blog. ‘-), ‘-), ‘-)

            So I guess what you meant to say was “Since I am Dr Greger’s Rottweiler, that is, his attack dog against any post that doesn’t refer to WFPB as the only true way, I am against any OTHER blogs. ‘-)

            But below are the things that causes this blog to “does it for me.”

            Early 2015, doctor and investor Joon Yun launched the Palo Alto Longevity prize, a one million dollar award for any scientist who could “hack the code of life” and find a way to keep humans from aging. In the past year, there has been a surge of new research into longevity enhancement in an attempt to win this illustrious prize. This article will explore the science to uncover the various supplements and drugs that can help you tap into the elusive fountain of youth

            And the guy you imply is a simple blogger:

            About Joe

            At the age of 25, with lots of questions and very few satisfying answers, Joe decided to embark on a journey of self-experimentation – something that has since become known as “bio-hacking”. He founded SelfHacked about 4 years ago and without any funds has transformed it to the fastest growing health website and the largest biohacking website, getting 1.5 million people visiting a month. He also founded SelfDecode which has become a leading platform for analyzing genetics for health information…
            Read more

            Tom, if you want more evidence from me you’ll have to go back and read all my links here. I suspect you are like me… that is, I don’t read your links because I know what they will say and I consider you to be a searcher of denial.

            But anyway, I’m involved in another forum on concerning the impending release of the Hydrogen One phone, the first intelligent phone.

            My personal health is of major importance to me, but trying to counter you in chess moves is not high on my agenda right now.

            Have a long life… or as long as you can squeeze out of a supplement free life without maximum nutrition.

            1. Lonie You just make assumption after assumption and think they are facts. Your assumptions are often wrong. Like your assumption that I don’t take supplements. And your assumption about the search terms I use.

              Also, I don’t post links and citations for your benefit. I realise that you are entirely happy in your world and that you don’t want to let the facts get in the way of your opinions. .I do it to demonstrate a chain of reasoning and to allow third parites to check the evidence for themselves

              And just because somebody is a successful blogger, that doesn’t prove that he or she knows what they are talking about. Greger is an MD and his analyses and conclusions are pretty much consistent with the conclusions of expert scientific panels that have reviewed all the evidence on nutrition and health – like those convened by the World Health Organization, the World Cancer Research Fund and the US Dietary Guidelines. Opinionated bloggers, snakeoil merchants and successful ‘alternative health’ websites are an entirely different kettle of fish.

              Also, you do realise that Joe Cohen and Joon Yun are two entirely different people?

              1. O.K., maybe I was a little harsh in calling you Greger’s Rottweiler… when in fact you are just plain ol’ plodding Tom lost in the 20th Century world of “just eat your vegetables.”

                I don’t know which supplements you take but I doubt they are based on new research showing how new findings are unlocking ways to use herbs, spices, foods, as preventative and in some cases, curative medicines. You know, 21st Century stuff.

                As for the information on the random site I pulled up for you, I’m not convinced about some of the things listed as they are new to even me, like the C60 thing. Sounds like a man-made small molecule thing. Man made things going into my evolution evolved body is something that makes me wary.

                But I do like the fact that the site’s principal recognizes the potential for lengthening our death line instead of accepting the old-time limited life line. He has apparently come to know that acceptance is the first step to change.

                And does he have some way to make money from his site? I don’t know but I hope so. I would actually prefer getting my information from someone who is benefiting from their work than someone who gives me information for free.

                We get free information here in the comments section all the time. Sometimes it is good information but many times it is wrong-headed. (No offense ‘-)

                1. OBTW, here’s a link I posted earlier, I think in this comments section, that suggest vegetarian isn’t for everyone. They even suggest spinach isn’t properly digestible for about 30% of the people they have information on.

                  Granted it is from the company founder but still it is information that could be helpful to people trying to eat healthy but aren’t getting good results.

                  This is 21st Century type information that gives us individualized facts rather than blanket “do this” or “don’t do that” advice.

                  Would that it were that simple, but it’s not.


        3. Lonie,

          Looking at that list, he has talked about aspirin and Curcumin, but he rightly pointed to how much better the foods performed.

          Turmeric is so much more powerful than curcumin and costs you less.

          Turmeric is powerful. Curcumin doesn’t do as much.

          Broccoli sprouts are powerful. Sulfaphane supplements don’t do much.

          Lycopene in food is powerful. Lycopene in supplements ranges from not doing much to increasing the chance of having precancerous lesions become prostate cancer when the doses were higher.

          Green tea is powerful. Green tea extract increases men’s rate of having precancerous lesions become prostate cancer.

          Selenium was another one where it caused the precancerous lesions to become full blown prostate cancer faster.

          1. Hi Deb,

            Can’t argue with your assessment. I didn’t actually read closely that much of his list as I am at the point where I’ve made my decisions on these more common supplements. I’m more interested in the very newest research rather than rehashing older research.

            Like I told Tom, I salute the man for understanding that we can affect our longevity through supplementation. Not a subscriber to his newsletter, but maybe I should be. ‘-)

  2. Ok, the next thing industry is going to get at is patenting the air we breathe and the water- but hey! they already do that!

    Great blog. Dr. Colin T. Campbell also emphasizes the value of the whole context of a nutrient versus its reductionistic counterpart. I took his course and just like Dr. Greger, he is dedicated to the, “sum being greater than the parts”.

    A proud and healthy monthly supporter of

    1. I was wondering exactly the same thing. I try to get a teaspoon of amla powder a day for its high anti-oxident properties. It’s dried fruit… but dried fruit isn’t exactly something in its natural state. And I’m taking it in capsules!

      Then again, ground flaxseed meal isn’t in its natural state.
      Shelled hemp seed isn’t in its natural state.

      So… it’s complicated.

    2. Well, it is a powdered whole food as opposed to an isolated chemical found in foods – which is what antioxidanrt supplements are. That’s a substantial difference, I would think.

      And I always wonder what are the long term effects of consuming all those fillers and binders, stabilisers and who knows what else found in supplements.

  3. Going from antioxidant beta-carotene supplementation increases mortality to all antioxidant supplementation increases mortality commits the fallacy of Hasty Generalization.

  4. Can you list the 6 studies you mentioned in the article, in which beta-carotene pills supplements increased mortality. Where these studies all preformed on smokers? Did the subjects already have cancer? Where some of the studies preformed on health volunteers? Without context, it very difficult to make to any informed speculations, and certainly to make any conclusions, regarding this subject. I would be very appreciative if you could provide links to the six studies. Thank you

        1. I’ve been so frustrated as a layperson not being able to access the full journal articles on the efficacy of supplements. I rely on the information here on and also, reading abstracts. I need to trust myself more, I guess, haha! I have been eliminating micronutrient based supplements for a while and working on eating WFPB. I’m feeling way better.

    1. If you click on the link to the Pub Med review, which Dr. Greger posted above, they say:

      “We included 53 randomized trials with low risk of bias (241,883 participants, aged 18 to 103 years, 44.6% women) assessing beta-carotene, vitamin A, and vitamin E. ”

      53 randomized trials.

      1. Within the last couple of weeks someone posted a recently published large study on Vit D that did not turn out with a positive result for those taking vit d. I have been looking in the comments sections of videos and articles hoping to find it and repost it here. Of anyone saved the link, please post it ! Would be great for Dr Greger to take a look at it.

        I stopped taking vit d. I just dont think you can fit what the sun does in a pill.

        1. I’ve seen the research out in the wild that you referred to but can’t find it again doing a go-ogle search.

          Like you I stopped taking Vitamin D. Where I live, lack of sunshine (and heat) isn’t a problem. You can hide in the darkest corner of your home and sunshine will bend, twist and turn until it finds you. ‘-)

          1. Thank you lgking! I will save it for sure today. I think it was Dr McDougall who did not recommend Vit D except in the case of those who cannot get outside. I live in canada without much sunshine for four or five months of the year, but like Lonie, I have stopped vit D for now.

              1. Lea,

                I would suggest that there is much more to the story…..

                As we age our conversion of the UV light changes….Vitamin D and Aging and as a group there is much less exposure happening both due to more indoor living, clothing and the use of sunscreens.

                Couple this with the LEF study of 13,000 people who were taking supplements and had their levels checked and one can see a different perspective.

                There are no lack of studies suggesting that we should have increased levels of this nutrient due to the many positive effects of vitamin D and our continued change in most people’s lifestyle.

                Dr. Alan Kadish Health Support volunteer for Dr. Greger

          2. The latest science on Vitamin D suggests you need to take Vitamin K2 along with it.
            Hardly anyone gets any K2 in there diet today, except some Japanese and some French folks.

            Another supplement that is a must-take because it’s not found in food.

          3. Good link- thanks

            On the other hand, in Australia we are exactly lacking in sunshine yet 31% of the population is estimated to be vitmin D deficient.

            And this 2017 Norwegian review of the evidence on the health effects (excluding skeletal health) of vitamin D supplementation concluded

            “In summary, supplementation with vitamin D seems to be causally related to a reduce all-cause mortality, which is in accordance with the findings from observational studies. Moreover, as reviewed in the section on malignant diseases, MAs on cause specific mortality have shown a reduced mortality due to malignant diseases [184,186,190]. Only vitamin D3 has been shown to reduce mortality, and some MAs have suggested that the effect only is present if calcium is co-administered, whereas other MAs have shown an effect of vitamin D3 alone. The lack of a clear dose-response relationship may be attributable to characteristics of the RCTs included in the MAs, as most of the trials have investigated effects of low doses (Table Ib in S1 File) which may limit the statistical power to show dose-effect relationships. Furthermore, as recently shown in a simulation analysis, based on findings from a large cohort study, the expected impact on mortality of vitamin D supplementation is presumably much higher if targeted to individuals with low 25OHD levels [278].”

            (MAs = meta analyses)

              1. Most of the people who I know don’t spend any measurable time sitting outside in the sun anymore.

                When I was young, they did.

                That is one I take, most of the year, because I work during the daylight hours, and even if I didn’t, we don’t have sun in the Winter and it is too hot to be in the sun much in the Summer, and most of my friends and elderly relatives are highly deficient even with Vitamin D supplements.

                Dr. Greger put up studies where it did help.

                This is where it gets confusing and where I have the “dose?” and “Is it the same for people with deficiency?” questions.

    2. Jeff, I read some of those studies when they first came out. Was asked for theories on why those results.
      Will state what I said then, beta-carotene is only one of a very large family of carotenoids. Actually another of them, the gamma form, is better at cancer prevention, others may be also.
      Possibly loading the body with only beta keeps the other, more potent types of carotenoids from being absorbed.
      When you get your carotenoids from food you get a good balance, and the amount your body can properly use.

      Ever have a doctor tell you not to have grapefruit juice with certain drugs? Same principle, the body can only metabolize so much at a time.
      The same problem occurs with all the folic acid being added to food. Some people can metabolize it. Others cannot and it blocks the receptors for the natural folate form.

  5. Hi Dr. Greger,
    What about food based supplements, brands like MegaFood, New Chapter, and Garden of Life, since they are made from the whole plant?

    1. This is a good question. I think the problem might be that many of these supplements often use a “trick” to make some of their supplements “whole foods.” These “whole food” vitamins often use a yeast, which they feed synthetic, isolated vitamins to, and essentially have a “whole food” version of the yeast once it continues to produce and incorporates the vitamin into it in the process. You can look up the exact process online for more detail, but their not exactly “natural,” but more engineered and quasi-natural, if that. This is usually done with the vitamins/minerals that aren’t concentrated enough in natural foods to reduce them down to pill size via freeze-driving and powering; the beta-carotene that they put in these supplements, likely come from powdered carrots or the like, but the interaction between the other quasi-natural, isolated nutrients that aren’t really whole foods might cause the supplements not to act like whole foods in the body. If you used one of the real whole food powders that doesn’t include this yeast (as carrier for the vitamins/minerals), it would act like whole food and be safe because it is whole food, but you can’t get all the essentials with these powers because some vitamins and minerals simply aren’t practical or possible to include, like vitamin b12 for example. That’s why these real whole food powders don’t include all the essential vitamins and minerals. There may be exceptions, that I haven’t run across but at the very least the b12 would have to be synthesized. That wouldn’t be a problem though, so if you can find a powder that is most complete (and without yeast) and totally from real whole foods (save the b12), let us know. Hope this helps. I would also like to here what Dr. Greger says.

      1. I use a product by Vibrant Health by Mark Timon called Maximum Vibrance, the label does not have the word yeast anywhere in the list of ingredients so I contacted the nutrionist with Vibrant Health to see if they use yeast. I haven’t heard back as of yet. Soon as I do I will follow-up.

        1. The nutritionist had this to say in response to my inquiry:
          “Beta 1,3-1,6 glucans 70% std. extract from Saccharomyces cerevisiae yeast”
          Sugar yeast or its more commonly used name brewers yeast is used to cause any type of fermentation process and has been used for centuries in wine making. In relation to Vibrant Healths product it is an ingredient that feeds the probiotics.

  6. The work of Linus Pauling on vitamin c and Abram Hoffer on niacin can’t be disputed. They both prescribed mega doses and they both had wonderful results, especially Hoffer with brain disorders. They both took their owm medicine and lived into their 90s.

    1. Linus Pauling’s recommendation of more than 3 grams of vitamin C resulted in the formation of renal and ureteral stones in 5 of us staff medical doctors, including meat the same time, with 3 requiring surgery!

      1. Linus Pauling’s recommendation of more than 3 grams of vitamin C resulted in the formation of renal and ureteral stones in 5 of us staff medical doctors, including meat the same time, with 3 requiring surgery!

        C protects against stones, keeps oxalate and calcium from clumping. Stones are extremely rare. The Medical Industrial Complex has been badmouthing C for decades, because its too powerful, too important. Promises to negate the need for so many profitable (and poisonous) drugs.

        Dr. Klenner cured 60 cases of Polio with Vitamin C in the midst of the 1940’s epidemic and reported it to the AMA in person and in print. They’ve tried their best to bury it ever since. Google Dr. Klenner.

        Almost all the animals make their own Vitamin C. It’s important. Man lost the ability, but still has the broken genes to show for it. Man used to synthesize C internally just like all the other animals.

        Animals our size make lots of C daily. Over ten grams for a typical 100 pound animal. And many times that if they get sick. Compare that to megadosing. We don’t get enough C. That’s why we get sick and the animals don’t.

        1. I’ve been introduced to what you say on the dryourself website over the years. I am a believer in Vitamin C and Niacin B3 as having contributed to my acceptable health (acceptable only because I believe I can get even healthier.)

          But I’m also a believer in things changing. Like the use of Nicotinamide Riboside and/or Nicotinamide Mononucleotide to do the work of Niacin many times better. Even complimenting Vitamin C with Astaxanthin.

          I’ve taken Vitamin C to bowel tolerance. OBTW, bowel tolerance doesn’t mean diarrhea, it simply means evacuating your soft stool bowels when the urge hits you. When you reach that point, back off a little and everything will be normal and you will have the health coverage that Vitamin C can offer.

          Good post Richard.

    2. Their work has been disputed The methodology they used has been criticised and in quite a few areas, researchers have been unable to replicate their results.

      Even the Linus Pauling Institute acknowledges that credible supporting evidence for many of their claims is lacking.

      We had the poster “Jerry Lewis” before. Now we have “Dean Martin”. Who’s next I wonder. Frank Sinatra?

    3. I have read both of those men’s studies and have found them interesting.

      PS: If you are Jerry Lewis, coming back as Dean Martin, that makes me laugh.

      If your name really is Dean Martin, forgive me, but we already had Jerry Lewis, so that makes me laugh, just as much, if not more.

  7. This is a very unfortunate article. It is by now pretty well known that beta carotene supplements alone increased death rates in smokers. But titling this article to generalize that and tar all antiox supplements in all situations with the same brush is pretty nuts. You have published a huge volume of excellent information, both print and video, but this is a real low point. I am a fan but you really missed the boat on this one.

    1. I think tilting the article to generalize was the point. We gave been swallowing the tilt whole for decades…need to ask who is financing the “studies” and who benefits from the “tilt.”

      1. Well, you deserve some of the negative push back you will get on this one. As alternative health advocates we have a responsibility to title anything we write or promote as to not be misleading to a public that has a very short and inpatient attention span. The title alone gives someone the impression that all supplements will shorten our lifespan. Truth is, anybody involved in the supplement and nootropics world should be smart enough to know that we never ever supplement with vitamin A. Why didn’t you just say it in the title?

        1. I don’t know about you but I am not an alternative health advocate. Too many of them are frauds or crackpots.

          I am however interested in the scientific evidence about nutrition – not uncritical faith-based beliefs in alternative health claims.

  8. Looking at the comments, people like their supplements.

    I like eating the fruits and vegetables and not having to spend all that money and not know whether something is helping me or killing me.

    I have however also wondered about the food based pills.

    I am not taking them though, because I like being able to install new flooring and kitchen cabinets and they were so expensive that they took up my money and they took up my cabinet space. I had so many bottles.

    Plus, I got so sick of swallowing pills and hated the taste of the powders.

    Now, I am getting a clutter free new kitchen and I get to eat real grapes.

    I can also say that I feel so much healthier since I switched to the foods versus the supplements.

    I am laughing, because my friend who is a supplement fan, is now trying to get me to drink aloe vera, because Dr. Oz does and I am not gonna do it. LOL! I am so happy to not be taking them anymore!

    They felt useful, before I started liking to eat fruits and vegetables, but for all I know they were killing me and I don’t even know how many people will just ignore the 53 trials, but that is enough to make me uncomfortable.

    Plus, I never had a sense of whether there was genuine product in the products, so I would have to eat the fruits and veggies and take the pills if I went that route again and I genuinely never want to.

  9. Great article. So are all your others. What is your take on Glucosamine, Hyaloronic Acid, MSM and/or Condroitan for joint support?

  10. Creo que no se cuenta toda la verdad en este artículo. En ese estudio que se cita, lo que se dio fue vitamina A sintética en forma de retinol, en unas dosis altísimas, muy por encima de la cantidad diaria recomendada, además de betacaroteno. Además, se hizo con grandes fumadores, no con personas que no fumaban. La suplementación con betacaroteno, dentro de los límites de la RDA, no tiene ningún peligro. Al contrario, aporta beneficios a la salud.

  11. It looks like a lot of people in the comments section today have bought into the marketing pitches of the supplement industry, or perhaps they are marketers themselves.

    As for me, I don’t take supplements except for B12 and D3, These two have a lot of evidence indicating that we do not get enough of them eating a whole plant food diet and being indoors due to northern climates and weather.

    Besides the reasons explained in the video, one of the main reasons I shy away from supplements is because it is so easy to put fake ingredients into them or not enough legitimate ingredients so you never know what you’re getting. In today’s world, I don’t have much trust in anyone anymore, especially governments, and multinational corporations! I stick to whole plants foods and am doing just fine with those … and it’s hard to fake a sweet potato :-)

  12. Well for those who do wish to supplement in addition to foods there are credible independent sources such as which even doctors rely upon. They do independent testing of products and reveal which ones do or don’t pass muster. It is headed by a doctor and they do not endorse or sell products tested.

    1. Lida, Consumer Labs is good. They will tell you if a product is contaminated, or doesn’t have what it claims to contain.
      But as to benefit or harm from the substance, they can’t tell you that.

      1. Consumer Labs had recommendations like which supplementd to use for various things without throng up on the warning studues.

        They are not neutral.

        That is not a good thing.

  13. Not sure where the info in the link below ties in with supplementation, but it does tie in with how different foods… even WFPB ones react differently in segments of the population.

    The focus on the piece is the gut microbiome. They make the statement, Maybe we should have listened to Hippocrates: “All disease begins in the gut.”

    And for me personally I don’t get anal about which specific foods convert into what if my microbiome isn’t suited for digesting it the right way. What I got from reading the piece was that inflammation is bad, and to that end I take known inflammation fighters… so even if I am eating foods that my personal biome isn’t agreeable, I treat the condition rather than go through the expense and trouble of having my sh*t examined.

    Full disclosure. The writer of the article is associated with a company that is concentrating on examining the gut and its workings. There is no direct pitch or link that I noticed trying to sell their investigations that I noticed, but still, you should be aware of that possibility.

    Personally I didn’t feel there was anything in their information that could be construed as hyperbole.

  14. Yes (for the 10,000th time) “Supplements Increase Mortality”, but what nutrition writers like Dr. Greger, aren’t understanding is that it is not about more ‘information’ about diet or nutrition that is needed in colonial humanity’s powerless & isolated lives. 10s of 1000s of dieticians & nutritionists have been trying again-&-again over 100s of years of institutionalized ‘exogenous’ (Latin ‘other-generated’) colonial history to push their professional or institutional ‘information’ & not understanding that; the solution is ‘SOCIO-CULTURAL’. In cultural models people collaborate & learn the necessary information together.
    The greatest factor in nutritional health (& vegan diet choices) is actually social-inclusion & participation more than just nutrients alone. For 100s of 1000s of years all humanity’s worldwide ‘indigenous’ (L ‘self-generating’) ancestors lived in approximately 100 person Multihome-Dwelling-Complexes (eg. Longhouse-apartment, Pueblo-townhouse & Kanata-village). Intergenerational, interdisciplinary, female-male, critical-mass, economies-of-scale enabled each to contribute their complementary talents, goods, services & knowledge locally in intimate productive collaboration.
    In indigenous cultures, each person could contribute their own gift to ‘community’ (L ‘com’ = ‘together’ + ‘munus’ = ‘gift-or-service’) through the Multihome & specialized Production-Society-Guilds. String-shell accounting tools were used on every continent & island of the world to recognize every contribution simultaneously integrating: capital (progressive ownership), currency (flow), condolence (social-security), collegial mentored-apprentice educational credit, time-math communication, professional-costume & other facets of recognition.
    It turns out today that 70% of human populations still live in multihomes with an average of 32 dwelling-units or 100 people. A good portion 15%, intentionally live as extended-families (separately but close) in multihomes intentionally so they can collaborate intergenerationally. Generations collaborating have a huge impact upon psychological & social health including gardening & dietary choices. If we employ & expand the multihome cultural model of mutual-aid, with ‘community-kitchen-dining-hall-restaurants’, we can create successful whole-food cultural nutrition. I’m vegetarian 45 years & vegan 30 years having learned culturally through osmosis by living & working among a large 50,000 vegetarian community.
    Indigene Community’s ‘Do-we-know-who-we-are-?’ neighbourhood, web-based, open-source, open-data, community-economy software is about bringing ‘economy’ (Greek ‘oikos’ = ‘home’ + ‘namein’ = ‘care-&-nurture’) back to its roots in the collective multihome where 70% of Canadians & humanity live today. Why do those trying to innovate economically know so little about humanity’s worldwide universal long 100s of 1000s of years of economic practice? ‘Do-we-know-?’ reflects indigenous human resource traditions, in developing software for neighbourhoods to create websites with online Human Resource Catalogues HRC, Resource-mapping & accounting in Community, Contribution, Investment & Exchange Systems CCIES.

  15. why dredge up the beta carotene study again, over and over when there are 50 other supplements sold over counter the favorable research on which the Dr. Gregor continues to ignore?

    1. The blog post is ;about anti oxidant supplements. It is not about all supplements.

      And he already recommends that people take certain supplements

      If you have credible evidence that this or that supplement extends life in humans, post it here.

  16. Dr. Greger is a good man. But he’s got a blind spot.

    There is tons of research showing that various supplements have a profoundly good effect on people health.

    Dr. Greger is a special doctor. He’s risen above the horrendous blind spot so many doctors have for the importance of diet.

    Unfortunately, he doesn’t want to let go of the standard doctor response to supplements: that we don’t need them.

    If only that were true. If the soils that crops are grown in weren’t becoming more and more depleted of nutrients every year. Or that getting a little more of some supplements can do a whole lot better job than the drugs doctors love to prescribe.

    Dear Dr. Greger, please read the damn research and be more careful making blanket statements.


    1. Why not post the “damn research” yourself that you claim he is ignoring? Then we can all judge whether your claims are correct. As it is, you are just expecting people to take your word for it

      Remember this is a post about anti oxidant supplements and mortality in the general population specifically – not all supplements and not all claimed benefits in each and every subpopukation and target group.

      1. Why not post the “damn research” yourself that you claim he is ignoring? Then we can all judge whether your claims are correct. As it is, you are just expecting people to take your word for it

        Because that’s you guys job. Dr. Greger has a whole team of researchers. He has just made a spurious, incorrect claim. I’m giving him the opportunity to correct himself and to hopefully learn from his mistake. I don’t currently feel obliged, nor do I have the time right now, to revisit a ton of research.

        Remember this is a post about anti oxidant supplements and mortality in the general population specifically – not all supplements and not all claimed benefits in each and every subpopukation and target group.

        You make it sound like Antioxidant supplements is a tiny list. It’s not. Which just underscores the absurdity of Dr. Greger’s wild blanket assertion that they’re all universally dangerous to life itself. Life threatening!

        That’s an absolutely idiotic claim. But that’s what he said.

        1. So you say but the fact is that he has set out the evidence behind his statements. You haven”t

          It’s not his job to prove the claims of people who don’t like his conclusions. That’s your job – especially when you seem to be so absolutely certain that you are right. Surely you can come up with something?

          I am sure that there are some studies shwing an association between vitamin C supplements and decreased mortality risk for example. However i think that tere are other studies showing no effect so I can understand why he hasn’t discussed those. There’s no conclusive evidence either way.

          I might nevertheless ask the question about whether there is evidence that vitamin C supplement use increases mortality since I am not aware of any. However, certainly vitamins A and E when consumed in supplements do appear to be associated with increased mortality.

          All I am saying is that you are making serious allegations without providing any evidence whatsoever for your claims.

          1. Here is a Vitamin C and mortality link in the Seneca study:


            “At baseline, 13% of participants used nutritional supplements, 19% of subjects were smokers. During 10 years of follow-up 445 men and 252 women died. Among non-smokers no significant associations between total supplement use and particular nutrient supplement use were observed. Among smokers use of any type of supplements (Multivariate HR: 1.52; 95%CI: 1.02-2.28), use of vitamin B(1) (Multivariate HR: 1.57; 95%CI: 1.00-2.48) and vitamin B(2) supplements (Multivariate HR: 1.60; 95%CI: 1.00-2.56) were associated with a significantly higher risk of all-cause mortality. The similar tendencies were observed among vitamin B(6) and vitamin C supplement users who were smokers.”

            1. It was a study of smokers, but it means that there can be a negative effect of vitamin C on some populations.

              I ponder it, because so many people in the Cancer communities use vitamin C and enzyme supplements.

              The enzyme supplement study is one I ponder, where people died faster. I would wonder if food enzymes work and supplements harm. I did the whole enzyme pills and many of these supplements, but now would do food instead.

              Watching “Eating You Alive” there were a few people who had Stage 4 Cancer who switched to WFPB and lived.

              To me, THAT is a study that I want to see.

    2. I agree with Tom.

      Dr Greger isn’t do the “doctor” thing about supplements.

      He is doing the WFPB reality that food actually works and supplements often don’t even have the product in and when they do, many of them kill you.

      In the men’s health podcast it was studies about 4 non antioxidants, which also caused harm in supplememt form.

      Green tea extract kills you

      Green tea saves your life

      I went blank on the other three things, but the whole foods save lives, the supplements caused more prostAte Cancer and it wasn’t beta carotene or float or Vitamin E.

  17. Hi, Just to say I think what Dr Gregor and the team is doing in providing this objective information is wonderful, very much needed. My question is, My family and I, my wife and son, take a vitamin B complex tablet once a day, I thought this would cover all bases as we are all vegan or vegetarian. It has 200ug of folic acid in it. do you think that will be an amount that could cause problems, or were the studies that were cited on folic acid in the supplement video, for a much higher dose? Many thanks Dom Wormell

    1. Dom, some people because of their genetics can metabolize folic acid into the useful form of Folate. Understand, -folic acid and folate- are Not the same biochemical.

      About 30% of the American population has one of several SNP’s (single nucleotide polymorphisms) that cause them to have problems with the synthetic form of folate called folic acid.

      Best get your folate, the natural form, from eating green leafy vegetables daily.
      I recommend that clients who want to take multi-vitamins, take them only every 2nd or 3rd day to prevent problems.

  18. Hello Dom, and thank you for your question,
    I am a family doctor with a private practice in lifestyle medicine and also a Health Support Volunteer for this website.

    I cannot figure out which “supplement video” you are referencing in your comment, so I don’t know which folic acid studies you’re referring to either. But I have a few general comments which might be helpful:

    1) Dr. Greger in general feels that it is better to take in your vitamins and nutrients as whole foods rather than supplements.

    2) However, there are some nutrients that we might not get enough of, even if we eat a healthy, plant-based diet. So he wrote a nice short article on the entire list of nutrients which he feels might need to be supplemented by people on a vegan diet:

    3) The particular vitamin B complex tablet which your family takes is probably not causing you any harm. But parts of it are simply unnecessary if you’re eating a healthy diet. Your intake of folic acid (or folate), for example, is almost certainly more than adequate if you eat a healthy diet.

    4) However, there are some supplements which have been shown to actually be harmful in large doses, including beta-carotene, and calcium, as Dr. G addresses in other videos.

    I hope this helps.
    Health Support Volunteer for

  19. That TG guy seems to have a chip on his shoulder. Why the sharp bristles? His comments are sometimes uncomfortable to read.

  20. Why do you think that food studies don’t pass peer grant reviewers unless they focus on a particular isolated substance?

    Is it because of the potential marketability of substances vs entire foods? Or does it have to do with a current scientific paradigm that makes people think this way?

  21. Dr. Gregor,
    My mother has recently started with a company selling Protandim, which is some kind of antioxidant supplement. Do you have any information on it? I am a firm believer in food is the only supplement you need, but am being bombarded with information about this “supplement that isn’t a supplement” and how life changing it is by decreasing oxidative stress.

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