Benefit of Antioxidants Questioned

Past research done on animal test subjects has suggested that taking antioxidant supplements may prolong life. According to a recent review, in which 67 human antioxidant studies were accounted for, the numbers in human beings do not appear to support this conclusion.

Antioxidants are molecules that can hinder the oxidation of certain molecules. Oxidation, while a necessary process, has been known to be dangerous within the body as well, such as being a catalyst for the growth of cancer cells and “oxidative stress,” which can lead to heart disease. For this reason, it’s been suggested that antioxidants have the ability of holding off diseases and increasing life expectancy.

The 67 studies included 232,550 subjects, 164,439 being “healthy participants,” and 68,111 “with various diseases (including gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, neurological, ocular, dermatological, rheumatoid, renal, endocrinological, or unspecified diseases).”

According to the study, “A total of 17880 of 136,023 participants (13.1%) randomised to antioxidant supplements” died, and that “there were no significant differences between the effects of antioxidant supplements in healthy participants (primary prevention trials) or participants with various diseases (secondary prevention trials).”

Given the recent trend of the general populace to try and increase their antioxidant intake, and the increasing number of doctors and nutritionists that subscribe to antioxidants helping reduce mortality, the conclusions of this study come as quite a shock to many. The study concludes that “current evidence does not support the use of antioxidant supplements in the general population or in patients with certain diseases.” The researchers also say that “Antioxidant supplements need to be considered medicinal products and should undergo sufficient evaluation before marketing,” and that “the combined evidence suggests that additional research on antioxidant supplements is needed.”

Source: Defeat Diabetes Foundation: Bjelakovic, G. Nikolova, D. Gluud, LL. Simonetti, RG. Gluud, C. Chochrane Reviews. “Antioxidant supplements for prevention of mortality in healthy participants and patients with various diseases.” April 2008.