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Antioxidants Might Kill You, Or At Least Do Nothing For You

Several recent studies are poking holes in theories that antioxidizing compounds can help the body fight disease.

pomegranate

Photo: JOE MARINARO (flickr)

Antioxidants, like those found in pomegranates, might not be the disease-fighting superfood they've been called.

Behind The Labels

Feel free to back off on the antioxidant-studded granola bars, cereal and whatever else. Antioxidants may not be the food superhero we’ve thought them to be.

Several recent studies highlighted in a recent Newsweek article are poking holes in theories that antioxidizing compounds like vitamins C and E and beta-carotene can help the body fight disease by breaking up potentially harmful reactions started by free radicals.

Hurting Not Helping?

An upcoming issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that female mice treated with an antioxidant compound showed reduced fertility. Another paper in the 2010 Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry showed that antioxidants worsened or even caused kidney cancer in lab rats.

Worse still are the results of a 400,000-person study from the Cochrane Review in 2008, which showed that people taking antioxidant supplements showed no change in their symptoms in a range of diseases or showed “increased mortality.”‘

Plenty Of Products

While it’s still unclear as to why antioxidants might speed progression of some diseases, what is clear is the increasing number of antioxidant-enhanced foods lining the grocery store aisles. In 2009, 108 new food products proclaimed this on their labels.

Yikes.

Read More:

  • The Downside of Antioxidants (Newsweek)
  • Antioxidant supplements for prevention of mortality in healthy participants and patients with various diseases (Cochrane Reviews)
Carrie Schedler

Carrie Schedler is a senior at Indiana University studying journalism, English and French. She's originally from Columbus, Ohio, and still dreams often about salty caramel ice cream from Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams and baguettes from her semester abroad in Paris. Hopefully, she'll learn how to cook eventually.

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