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Group backs big doses of antioxidants

A senior citizens group is urging the government to allow vitamin makers to claim health benefits from large doses of beta carotene and vitamins C and E.

The non-profit Alliance for Aging Research said Thursday that regulators should allow claims on product labels that they help prevent a variety of chronic conditions linked to the aging process.

It also recommended large daily doses of the three antioxidants for all Americans.

The alliance said it convened a panel of nutritionists and medical experts who concluded that "a diet rich in antioxidants, including beta carotene and vitamins C and E, is effective in guarding against heart disease, cancer, cataracts and other conditions associated with aging."

A spokeswoman for the federal Food and Drug Administration said the agency was studying the scientific evidence for claims of health benefits from the three substances but was not ready to issue recommendations.

The alliance panel looked at more than 200 research studies on antioxidants conducted over the past two decades.

It concluded that adults should consume daily:

250 to 1,000 milligrams of vitamin C.

100 to 400 international units of vitamin E.

17,000 to 50,000 international units or 10 to 30 milligrams of beta carotene.

The recommended doses for vitamins C and E are four to 16 times the daily intake now recommended by the government. There is no recommended daily dose at this time for beta carotene.

The daily dosages recommended by the government are based on avoidance of dietary deficiencies. But evidence is growing that antioxidants have additional medical benefits in doses well above those needed to avoid deficiencies.