The positive health benefits of Antioxidants? A myth, likely.
February 25, 2011
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This has been bugging me for a long time. I read somewhere a few years ago (no link, sorry) that the whole antioxidants-are-good-for-you meme was completely made up a few decades ago and we just all assumed it was true. Now, articles like this about the positive benefits to eating chocolate appear (don’t get me started on the pseudo-science perpetrated by the HuffPo), which perpetuate the myth. The article I read a few years ago said the author had done an extensive search of the medical literature to find studies that proved a link and found no studies, much less ones that found a positive link. I just ran across this article, which appears to be the same as a New Scientist article that is behind a paywall. This is the kicker for me (emphasis mine):
Green plants are full of antioxidants for good reason. They are especially vulnerable to oxidative stress since they produce pure oxygen during photosynthesis. To protect themselves they manufacture an assortment of potent antioxidants.
And so a hypothesis was born: dietary antioxidants are free-radical sponges that can stave off the diseases of old age. It was a great idea. “Putting two and two together, scientists assumed that these antioxidants were protective, and that taking them as supplements or in fortified foods should decrease oxidative damage and diminish disease,” says Halliwell, who pioneered research into free radicals and disease. “It was simple: we said free radicals are bad, antioxidants are good.”
Damn that is annoying! And even more annoying that humans will hear something and repeat it as fact. Not to mention the huge industry surrounding this crap science.