New Celebrity endorsement for antioxidants

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The anti-ageing effects of antioxidant vitamin supplements were yesterday extolled by legendary film star and bon viveur, Count Dracula.

The Romanian aristocrat turned actor and personality explained that without his tailored regime of antioxidants he would never be able to sustain his punishing round-the-clock lifestyle. Count Dracula joins other celebrities, like Sir Cliff Richard, Gloria Hunniford, actress Jenny Seagrove and Carole Caplin, who have spoken out to defend supplements after recent medical studies suggested that antioxidant supplements did not benefit those taking them, and might even be harmful.

“Of course that’s complete rubbish”, says the astoundingly youthful-looking Count emphatically. “I take vitamins A, B, C D, and E every day, as well as Beta-Carotene and N-acetylcysteine by the bottle-load, and I absolutely swear by them all”.

The one antioxidant Dracula doesn’t take is Selenium. “It makes your breath smell of garlic he says. “I’ve simply never been able to abide garlic - dreadful stuff.”

Dracula’s supplement regime certainly seems to be working – he hardly looks a day over forty, though persistent rumours place his birthday somewhere in the 15th century. The star is understandably coy about his exact age, admitting only that he has “seen a few centuries come and go”.

Dracula looks especially well for a man who admits that he had been laid up only a couple of days before with a bad stomach. “I must have eaten someone that disagreed with me” he quips. He thinks perhaps the meal that laid him low probably contained too many chemical food additives.

“I do try to stay strictly organic”, he says ”but when you’re on the move so much it’s hard to find really good food, and you never really know where it’s come from. Often it says it’s organic, or vegetarian, but how can you be sure?”

Dracula also has a special dietary problem – his unusual diet is rich in iron and protein, but missing the fruit and vegetables that normally supply phytochemical (plant-derived) antioxidants.

That, he says, is where the antioxidant supplements help.

“Yes, it’s partly a detox thing” he says. “As a Haemo-tarian, I take in really incredible amounts of iron. It gives me bags of energy, of course, but I do worry about getting iron_overload. Of course, all that iron means my system is under a really tremendous amount of oxidative stress, and that’s where the antioxidants come in. Without the vitamin C and vitamin E, and the N-acetyl-cysteine, I think I would be in real trouble”

He is scornful of the recent science suggesting antioxidants don’t help people stay healthy.

“How can they just mix all those different trials in together and get a sensible answer? People are individuals. I don’t know anyone else who eats the sort of diet I do, so how can these scientists possibly say the supplements aren’t going to help me? And of course these so-called scientists have to say that so that the drug companies can make money, don’t they? They don’t want people getting healthy on their own without their pills Personally I’ve never taken so much as an aspirin.”

The Transylvanian-born star certainly seems ultra-healthy, not to mention in splendid form – “call me Vlad” he says, with that famous toothy grin. Our interview takes place at 4 am, but he looks as if he is just getting ready to go out for a night on the town. He does admit to being “an unapologetic 100% night person”.

Given his nocturnal hours and hectic schedule, simply finding the time for a sit-down meal can be a problem.

“Being awake at odd hours, as I am, simply plays havoc with your normal eating habits” he laments. “You can’t always just grab a quick snack on the run, especially if it’s hard to catch. I try to eat regularly and not snack in between, but sometimes I do get the most terrible cravings.”

When he does succumb to the need for a snack, Dracula know what he likes.

“I simply adore traditional black_pudding as a quick bite” he confides “but I can’t eat it too often. I worry about all the nitrate preservatives they put in it, you know”.

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9 Responses to “New Celebrity endorsement for antioxidants”

  1. Claire Says:

    Funny. What I’ve been wondering, in the last couple of days, is if all this muddying of the issue (referring to excluded trials etc) is done cynically in the knowledge that most people won’t be familiar with how meta-analyses such as the Cochrane reviews are conducted. Or can the industry representatives raising these objections themselves be ignorant of the methodology? I suspect the first, particularly given the recourse to the ‘argument from celebrity anecdote’. Whichever the case, it looks like there is an urgent job to be done regarding improving popular understanding of scientific evidence, particularly relating to health.

  2. She-Liger Says:

    http://postpostscriptum.wordpress.com/
    About quackery courses in universities.

  3. Claire Says:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/apr/26/medicalresearch.health and on the Bad Science site. Excellent step towards improving popular understanding of how this meta-analysis was conducted. My only reservation is about preaching to the converted – what chances of getting something like this into, say, the Daily Mail or women’s magazines (my bete noir)? Or are they too dependent on advertising from supplement manufacturers etc?

  4. draust Says:

    You never know with the Daily Mail, Claire – if they think that “the wind is changing” they quite probably will publish some stuff setting out the evidence on Alt Therapies – see for instance the two pieces they recently ran about Edzard Ernst’s and Simon Singh’s new book here and here, and which are apparently part of a series.

    Or at least, the Mail may start printing both science and non-science (nonsense?), which in effect is what the Guardian does. Ben’s column is an oasis of scientific sense in the Guardian, but the “Life and Health” pages (womens’ pages as was) are still full of evidence-misquoting claptrap like this dismal article from yesterday.

    The womens’ magazines are something else again. If they can’t sell women the “you can stay young and attractive forever” myth, then what exactly do they have to sell? So don’t expect to see them signing up to reality any time soon.

  5. LeeT Says:

    Count D, great to read your thoughts. I have always been a bit of a fan of yours.

    You do bear a passing resemblance to the the renowned British nutrition therapist Patrick Holford. Are you by any chance related to him?

    Have you ever thought of eating more fruit, vegetables, fish and wholegrains? It would help you be healthy and also protect Romanian peasants from becoming extinct

  6. The Count Says:

    Lee

    Always a delight to hear from a fan.

    I can’t really say if young Patrick has picked up a tip or two from me. .. though we do both seem to have a lot of devoted female fans.

    Patrick is a much more casual dresser than me, of course – I have never really been able to get used to denim and an open necked shirt. It will sound terribly old-fashioned, but I still think the mark of a real gentleman is a well-tailored formal suit.

    As to the diet, I’m afraid too much fibre tends to give me gas. My liquid diet isn’t for everyone, but I think it keeps me young. Along with the supplements, naturally.

  7. Claire Says:

    You’re right Dr Aust, the Daily Mail has been showing intriguing signs of rationality of late! With regard to women’s magazines, I wonder if it would have any effect if, say, female students/graduates in scientific disciplines were to monitor such publications and write – in numbers – to the editors of those promoting pseudoscience? You never know, treating your readers as if they might actually be intelligent could be good for circulation figures (and for my blood pressure!).

  8. She-Liger Says:

    http://postpostscriptum.wordpress.com/2008/05/05/revolution-no-it-is-counter-revolution/

  9. A year of Virtual Spleen « Dr Aust’s Spleen Says:

    [...] do get page views. The most read, by some distance, remains my famous friend Count Dracula’s Endorsement for Antioxidants, though both Drinking water – or bathing in it- can be deadly (not) and Journals of alternative [...]

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