UVa Study: Nutritional Supplements a No-No

By: Matt Holmes Email
By: Matt Holmes Email

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Inside the UVa research labs teams are hard at work everyday trying to prove their latest theories and hypotheses. But it was an incorrect hypothesis that led one team to discover the dangers of an antioxidant called NAC.

"What we found," says co-lead researcher Dr. Lisa Palmer, "is if you gave it to mice for a long term, male mice developed pulmonary hypertension which is a disease which has high blood pressure just in the lungs."

Palmer and Dr. Ben Gaston led the study, which was initially supposed to show how high levels of the antioxidant proved beneficial to mice. But Palmer says the increased heart troubles they saw in male mice sent up red flags.

"In low doses it's probably fine," Palmers says. "Depending on where it is and whether the problem is due to an oxidation effect it could be fine. But in this case, it's not."

NAC is present in many popular supplements, most of which you can easily obtain from your local nutrition store. But as researchers don't yet know all the harmful effects, neither do customers.

"At this time we don't know what it is in humans," Palmer says. "The fact we can develop this disease in mice would be suggestive that maybe at very high doses for long periods of time it could also be detrimental."

Dr. Palmer says it looks like men are more vulnerable than women and those who take high doses are more vulnerable than those who take proper doses. She emphasizes that it's not a good idea to take these supplements over a long period of time.

The team's findings appear in this month's Journal of Clinical Investigation.

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