Lutein, Lycopene, & Selenium Pills

Lutein, Lycopene, & Selenium Pills
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Which of these three has been associated with increased cancer risk?

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Normally, I wouldn’t spend so much time on one topic, but people are always asking me about supplements. Let’s try three at a time. Lutein, a phytonutrient found in dark green leafy vegetables; lycopene, found in tomatoes; and selenium, a trace mineral found in nuts and whole grains.

Not a single one of these, in pill form, prevented cancer, and one of these three was just found to increase cancer risk when taken in pill form. Which one was worse than just a waste of money, and actually seemed to cause cancer?

It was the lutein pills. There’s no getting around it; we just have to eat our greens, which has thousands of phytonutrients in it.

Drug companies are never going to find the right combination, but they don’t need to, because Mother Nature did it for us.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by veganmontreal.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Normally, I wouldn’t spend so much time on one topic, but people are always asking me about supplements. Let’s try three at a time. Lutein, a phytonutrient found in dark green leafy vegetables; lycopene, found in tomatoes; and selenium, a trace mineral found in nuts and whole grains.

Not a single one of these, in pill form, prevented cancer, and one of these three was just found to increase cancer risk when taken in pill form. Which one was worse than just a waste of money, and actually seemed to cause cancer?

It was the lutein pills. There’s no getting around it; we just have to eat our greens, which has thousands of phytonutrients in it.

Drug companies are never going to find the right combination, but they don’t need to, because Mother Nature did it for us.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by veganmontreal.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Doctor's Note

For more on the efficacy of pills versus whole foods, check out Treating Asthma With Plants vs. Supplements?

Also see my other videos on vitamin supplements, and check out my other “HHH” videos – Harmful, Harmless, or Helpful? – listed below the post.

For more context, see my associated blog posts: Açaí to Zucchini: antioxidant food rankingsPreserving Vision Through DietSoy milk: shake it up! and Are Multivitamins Just a Waste of Money?

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

12 responses to “Lutein, Lycopene, & Selenium Pills

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  1. I have an allegery (RAST testconfirmed) to Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, coconut and almonds and have been advised to avoid all tree nuts for a while (not seeds).

    I eat mostly raw and used to eat a brazil nut everyday for selenium. Sunflower seeds seem to be the next best think that could be on my diet. I would have to eat 8 cups a day though to get 200mcg!

    Is a selenium deficiency worse than taking supplements? I don’t want to supplement if I can help it. This whole tree nut allergy thing has introduced some serious problems to eating raw for me. Vitamin E is a little tricky but at least attainable.

      1. Do you have a list of selenium sources that are reliable and won;t involve eating, say, 4 cups of brown rice a day as that seems a pretty tall order! I read that the content in food depends on soil health and as we are over-farming and depleting soil quality that getting a good source of dietary selenium is almost un-doable. What is the daily recommendation of selenium? Thanks.

  2. Doctor Greger, I do take Lutein as a supplement (recommended by my optometrist). I read the document from 2nd Pub Med citation from your video “Lutein, Lycopene, and Selenium Pills”. I’m concerned because I’m taking 6 mg of lutein and the study was looking at people who took 1.5 mcg as a mean daily dose.

    “Because lutein supplement use was relatively infrequent in our study
    population, we decided to classify lutein supplement use as nonusers,
    (lutein-containing) multivitamin users, and individual supplement users
    rather than presenting information on average dose and years of use.
    Although there were only 2 lung cancer cases in the individual lutein
    supplement use category, the respective mean and median daily doses
    among users were 1.5 mcg (standard deviation, 0.7) and 1.0 mcg, and only 0.22% of participants had used the individual supplement for 6 years or longer, the results are strongly suggestive of elevated risk associated
    with lutein use. Given that lutein supplements have been used only in
    the past 15 years and only recently at high doses, this potential risk
    factor for lung cancer may be more important than suggested by the
    present study.”

    I tried reading the tables, but got lost in the numbers. Can you reinterpret what this above paragraph is stating in terms of the numbers and percentages?

    Thanks

  3. IS DOCTOR GREGOR CORRECT ABOUT LUTEIN? SOMEWHAT CONTRARY TO YOUR ASSERTION THAT LUTEIN SUPPLEMENTS CONTRIBUTE TO LUNG CANCER, LUTEIN 10 MG AND ZEAXANTHIN 2 MG SUPPLEMENTS ARE PART OF THE AGE-RELATED EYE DISEASE STUDIES AREDS-2 STUDY AND WERE DEEMED TO SHOW NO HARMFUL EFFECTS ACCORDING TO EMILY CHEW, MD, DEP. DIR. NEI DIV. EPIDEM & CLINICAL APPLICATIONS. IF CHEW IS SUGGESTING THAT LUTEIN SUPPLEMENTATION IS GOOD FOR MD AND YOU ARE SAYING THAT IT IS ASSOCIATED WITH CANCER, WE’VE GOT A PROBLEM. COULD IT BE ONLY THE BETACAROTENE THAT WAS CANCER RELATED IN THE STUDY YOU SITE, AND NOT ALSO THE LUTEIN SUPPLEMENT? SEE http://www.nei.nih.gov/areds2

  4. Many of the HCSPH Faculty of
    Nutrition (specifically Dr. Walter Willett, venerated Nutrition Department Chair)
    honestly believe that preformed
    vitamin A (retinol, an alcohol which is
    convertible to other forms of vitamin A) is necessary in the developing
    world, and for that they recommend fish.
    That foundational supposition needs to be researched and addressed. In the Western world, about 2/3 of all
    Vitamin A is as the preformed
    vitamin A. You see,
    statistically a very few persons lack the enzyme that splits
    beta-carotene into retinol.

    However, I don’t find any videos or text in NutritionFacts.org concerning retinol or preformed Vitamin A.

    What direction for our research, thinking, and practice (on this topic)?

  5. I recently read an article from Eat This, Not That! titled:
    12 THINGS THAT HAPPEN TO YOUR BODY WHEN YOU EAT EGGS
    What are your thoughts about it? It also mentions that children should eat eggs due to Keshan disease and Kashin-Beck disease. I try to avoid giving my toddler eggs. Please let me know your thoughts about this.

    1. Thanks for your comment.

      NF has a great summary on eggs (see here).

      Eggs are a really misunderstood food and it’s health effects are mostly manipulated by the egg industry (see here, here and here). Apart from its consumption being associated with increased cholesterol levels (and thus cardiovascular diseases), high quality research studies and meta-analysis also now show that eggs are associated with type 2 diabetes (see here) and certain types of cancer (see here). Therefore, at no point it’s potential advantages outweigh the number of risks and it’s consumption should be avoided by all regardless of age or gender.

      Hope this answer helps.

  6. There is a missing source for selenium, judging from the missing information about it in the abstracts. Perpahs this is the one that was meant to be added?

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24683040

    Extracts from its main results are:

    * we found lower cancer incidence and cancer mortality associated with higher selenium exposure
    * we found no clear evidence that selenium supplementation reduced the risk of any cancer or cancer-related mortality

    This drops a lot of fine detail, so as always, go and read the fine print for yourself.

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