Re-thinking Antioxidants

Maybe they’re not so healthy after all:

One recent study found that antioxidant compounds caused fertility problems in mice. Though popular among athletes, antioxidants haven’t been shown to improve performance or speed recovery. To the contrary, supplementing with antioxidants may blunt the beneficial effects of working out. And while some dietary antioxidants may have a role in cancer prevention, excessive doses of some vitamins can aggravate illness or even cause it, researchers say.

“People should be aware that there is little to no data supporting the use of antioxidants to protect against disease,” said cardiologist Toren Finkel, chief of the Center for Molecular Medicine at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

The rest of the article is here.

The article, and the references it sites, is an indictment of anti-oxidant supplements and not so much the compounds themselves.

For me, the point that comes forward is the difference between supplementation and diet. A supplement, while containing many healthy things, is many steps removed from its natural sources. Often just as much as the processed junk food lots of pundits like to throw sticks at. This isn’t an anti-technology rant. I take supplements when I can. But it’s important to remember that natural produce typically goes bad after a few days, and it’s just about impossible to preserve food without making important trade-offs.

4 thoughts on “Re-thinking Antioxidants”

  1. News like this makes me skeptical of the health news industry. For 20 years you’ve heard nothing but praise for anti-oxidants. Is it the research itself that’s to blame or the media coverage surrounding it?


  2. My guess is it’s the media. The media, almost by definition, is required to focus on unusual details that capture people’s attention. In many ways the diet industry inverts the way we ought to think about food. Eating healthy is simple, but we find unusual details about healthy food and then sprinkle it over the terrible food we eat daily with the hope it’ll be make things better.In some ways, it’s like trying to push the needle without any thought to what the needle is actually measuring.


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