Why Beta-carotene & Vitamins C & E are potentially harmful

A C E supplements are potentially harmful.

According to the late Victor Herbert www.victorherbert.com Vitamin C and Vitamin E and betacarotene are failures as supplements. Antioxidants don’t necessarily stop free radicals as the most potent free radical generator is iron- a reductant not an oxidant!. Vitamin C recharges Fe3+ back to Fe2+ which can then release another electron. This explains the poor performance of C in trials. Also C enhances digestion of iron and thus severely aggravates haemochromatosis which is an archetypal oxidative stress disease. If you are one of the large portion (about 10% of White and African populations) of the population who are a carrier for a haemochromatosis gene then Herbert indicates the Vitamin C dosages over 75mg per day will increase iron absorption to the same amount as being a full sufferer of haemochromatosis (homozygote with 2 haemochromatosis genes not one). Perhaps Vitamin C supplements over 75mg should carry a warning or be on prescription only!!!!!

Vitamin E is alpha tocopherol and there are several other tocopherols- of which gamma-tocopherol is probably the most important. Take Vitamin E and you won’t absorb your dietary gamma tocopherol and you will end up worse off than before! (Herbert)

Similarly beta carotene is one of hundreds of carotenes. Beta carotene stops you from absorbing the others. Hence beta carotene tablets increase lung cancer in smokers. In contrast dietary carotenes reduce lung cancer. Therefore diet derived beta carotenes statistically correlate strongly with less lung cancer- hence the trial of supplements which had the opposite effect to diet derived carotenes. A classical case of what happens when we combine overuse of inference- cause and effect had not been demonstrated. (Herbert)

I can’t find any body of evidence to show that CoEnzyme Q10 or alpha lipoic acid are harmful. Personally I recommend taking a wide variety of fruit and vegetables, and root vegetables (Red sweet potatoes, turnips, swedes).

Nobody has researched the antioxidant capacity of root vegetables, last I looked, and this is probably because turnips aren’t glamorous.

Also note that bilirubin is a major antioxidant, possibly one of the most important. Many people have genetically high bilirubin (Gilbert’s syndrome) and this may give them some protection. The only paper I found on heart disease showed a significant reduction with Gilberts, but probably needs more research.

On the other hand Folic acid, B12 and B6 seem very benefical except for one silly trial that involved intravenous B12 loading dosage.

One of the best references I found on free radicals & oxidative stress is

McCord J The evolution of free radicals and oxidative stress. Am J Med. 2000 Jun 1;108(8):652-9.
This was an introduction to a series of about 6 articles which are very high powered covering various organ systems etc. You can follow up other editions of the journal for the few weeks after to get the papers (online via academic subscription). The others are mainly by different authors.
McCord & Fridovich discovered superoxide dismutase (SOD) in the 60’s so he’s one of the leading authorities. Much antioxidant power is enzyme derived and SOD is the classic.

Of course, Paleolithic Diets are so rich in vitamins A C and E that there is no point in supplementing them anyway!

Ben Balzer

One Response to Why Beta-carotene & Vitamins C & E are potentially harmful

  1. omega-3 says:


    […]Why Vitamin A C E supplements are potentially harmful « Ben Balzer’s Paleolithic Diet Weblog[…]…

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