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Surprising Science

The Antioxidant Racket

Though marketed as a miracle health product, the benefits of antioxidants have been greatly overestimated, say researchers. In some cases, they have been shown to aggravate health problems.

What’s the Latest Development?

Sales of top antioxidant supplements have reached $5 billion but their health benefits have been greatly overstated, say researchers. Antioxidants which are produced naturally by the body combat free radicals associated with cancer and other diseases, but not so with supplements: “In some cases, studies suggest antioxidants may cause more harm than good. While some dietary antioxidants may have a role in cancer prevention, excessive doses of vitamins can aggravate illness or even cause it, researchers say.”

What’s the Big Idea?

A pseudo-scientific association between antioxidants and good health, created and maintained in the mind of the consumer, has created a health craze which, at best, is costing you money. At worst, it may be depleting your health. Compounds known as free radicals, or oxidants, which are associated with disease, are an unavoidable hazard of living and a natural byproduct of eating, drinking and breathing. In studies, “beta carotene supplements didn’t just fail to protect people against cancer, they increased the risk of lung cancer in smokers.”

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