Dr. Weil and Antioxidants…Something Doesn’t Add Up!

I have to admit that I am quite fond of Dr. Andrew Weil…well, at least, usually.  He is generally holistic with his approach but there are times when I read his articles and scratch my head.  Is he actually writing his pieces or is not reviewing them?  He has written several articles about antioxidants and he does reiterate certain points.  This is both a good and bad thing.  One such article on antioxidants that has thrown me for a loop makes me think he is either confused, or is trying to confuse us.  Here is the URL for the article… http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/ART03370/Antioxidants.html

A few points in this article actually caught my attention.

1.  He discusses how antioxidants at a young age can help prevent diseases, but then he states that he ‘believes’ that one should wait until a child is 4 years old before supplementing them.

2.  Dr. Weil recommends that adults need to take only four antioxidants (there are thousands) in supplement form.  He recommends ‘500 mg of vitamin C, 400 IU of natural vitamin E (mixed tocopherols or at least 80 mg of mixed tocopherols and tocotrienols), 200 micrograms of selenium, and 15,000 IU of mixed carotenoids (including lycopene and beta-carotene, a precursor to vitamin A).’

3.  Dr. Weil then states that ‘consuming antioxidants at levels far higher than RDA specifications of the individual micro-nutrients is not recommended, as excessive dosages may have pro-oxidant effects.’

Okay, let’s address the age issue.  I am unaware of any age where antioxidants are not a good idea to add to the diet.  We give our kids baby food and certainly try to incorporate fruits and vegetables.  This isn’t just for fiber.  Fruits and vegetables are where our antioxidants tend to come from.  In fact, many vitamins/supplements for children are chewables, so that kids of any age, with teeth, can process them.  As a parent, how do we know that the age of 4 really applies?  Maybe it’s 5, 6, 7, ah, who knows.  I have always believed that unfounded blanket statements about nutrition tend to be incorrect.  He mentions discussing this topic with pediatricians.  I think this is a great idea if the pediatrician has training on nutrition/supplementation.  Unfortunately, too many do not know this topic too well.  It’s just not in their curriculum.  But, that can change with one simple device…the Raman Spectrometer.  Why not get a Biophotonic Scan of your child to see if he/she has enough antioxidant protection?  If we are going to recommend any antioxidants, shouldn’t we determine where we’re starting.  I find Dr. Weil’s take on what age to begin antioxidant supplementation to be rather irresponsible.

Dr. Weil recommends 4 antioxidants.  Wow!  There are over 600 carotenoids and likely 2000-3000 total antioxidants.  I think it’s easy to agree that taking four is likely a bit short of what we need.  Now, to Dr. Weil’s defense, he recommends eating lots of colorful fruits and vegetables.  But, again, if he is going to recommend antioxidants, why only 4?  And again, why recommend anything if there are tools to see if you have enough in your system to begin with.  I liken this to recommending Crestor for patients without first assessing if they have a cholesterol problem.  Why?

The third point I touch on here is the one that bothers me the most.  I find this to be highly confusing and incorrect.  It seems that medical doctors, no matter what their pedigree, always go back to the RDA.  And in response, I have to discuss that the RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance) is essentially the minimum amount of a nutrient that one would need to prevent disease.  It’s not an optimal amount and it doesn’t take into consideration a lot of factors (such as weight/body composition, absorption issues, activity levels, etc..).  So, here we go.  Dr. Weil states that taking antioxidants at far higher levels than the RDA is not recommended, due to pro-oxidative effects.  Really, is this why he recommends 500mg of Vitamin C, when an adult male only needs 90mg (RDA) and a woman 75mg?  Am I missing something?

How can you decry the supplementation of large amounts of antioxidants when you are recommending such?  I’m missing something.  Let’s take this further.

Vitamin E RDA levels are 15mg, yes, 15mg per day.  That’s equal to 22.4 IU.  So, again, Dr. Weil recommends not taking a lot more than the RDA and he’s recommending 400 IU of ‘natural’ Vitamin E, or about 19x the RDA of Vitamin E?

So, my question to Dr. Weil is: what does he consider to be high levels of antioxidants that we should not be taking?  It already seems that he recommends far greater amounts of antioxidants than the RDA.  I’m beginning to think that MDs just have to mention the RDA just to mention it.  Do they ever even look at the numbers?

I knew Vitamin C and E RDA levels off the top of my head because I have looked at them before.  In regards to Selenium, that was one I was not as familiar with…so I looked it up.  Guess what, the RDA is 55mg/day.  So at least with this one, he’s only recommending 4x the RDA…again, how does he or anyone determine excessive amounts unless there is clear data (medical studies) that are aimed to assess such?

As far as his ‘mixed carotenoids’, the RDA for Vitamin A is 700 IU for females and 900 IU for males.  Again, 15,000 IU is quite a jump from that amount.

To conclude, my point of contention isn’t that he is recommending more than the RDA…in fact, I am in favor of recommending far more than the minimum to just survive.  The problem is that we have another example of an ‘expert’ stating things that are not true and going against things that he is stating.  He should read what he writes more carefully and in my humble opinion, not tow the medical line that we see so much regarding the importance of the RDA.  When it comes to carotenoids/antioxidants, we can figure out what to recommend based on a simple Skin Carotenoid Scan.  Why don’t we all just do this and stop guessing?

Thank you for your time and if you have any comments, please let me know below…

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