An astonishing example of glaring anti-supplement bias in a clinical study

“Vitamins Found to Curb Exercise Benefits”

That’s the headline for the New York Times coverage of a study you may have heard about recently.

A team of U.S. and German researchers tested the effect of large doses of vitamins C and E (or placebo) in nearly 40 young men who took part in a rigorous four-week exercise regimen.

Results showed that subjects who took the supplements showed no improvement in insulin sensitivity. In fact, researchers claim that the antioxidant supplements actually had a negative effect on insulin sensitivity, when just the opposite should have been the case after such intensive exercise.

Stephen Daniells at NutraIngredients-USA did a first-rate job in presenting the facts of this study alongside a detailed rebuttal from Alexander Schauss, Ph.D. – an antioxidant expert and nutraceutical products consultant. Among the several excellent points made by Dr. Schauss, this one stood out: Results relied heavily on muscle biopsies, but biopsies were performed on less than 10 subjects.

For me, this NutraIngredients quote was most revealing: “Lead author Michael Ristow told that a number of studies have already shown that antioxidant supplements have no benefit.”

If Dr. Ristow chooses to ignore the huge body of research that reveals benefits of antioxidant supplement use, that’s not a problem. But when he brings his glaring bias to a substandard study that makes headlines around the world, that’s a problem.

If we ever see any significant research that confirms the results of this study, I’ll eat my antioxidant hat.

“Vitamins Found to Curb Exercise Benefits” Nicholas Wade, New York Times, 5/11/09,
“Antioxidants May ‘Block’ Benefits of Exercise: Study” Stephen Daniells, NutraIngredients-USA, 5/12/09,
“Vitamin-Exercise Study Questioned” Stephen Daniells, NutraIngredients-USA, 5/12/09,