The antioxidant myth is too easy to swallow
When the press release arrived in our inboxes, we knew what would happen next. A controversial Nobel laureate had stated, in a peer-reviewed paper he described as "among my most important work", that antioxidant supplements "may have caused more cancers than they have prevented".
Even the most fad-friendly sections of the UK media were bound to cover the story.
In reality, Professor James Watson – one of the DNA double-helix's founding fathers – was only restating what we at Cancer Research UK (along with many others) have been pointing out for years. Large studies have repeatedly shown that, with the possible exception of vitamin D, antioxidant supplements have negligible positive effect on healthy people, at least in terms of important things such as preventing people getting cancer or dying prematurely. And some supplements – notably vitamins A, E and beta-carotene – even seem to slightly raise the risk of disease and early death...
@ The antioxidant myth is too easy to swallow | Henry Scowcroft | Comment is free | theguardian.com:
The article (see above link) has a great link to a UK Cancer-Science blog. It's old, but gold:
June 24, 2009 by Henry Scowcroft
This entry is part 1 of 3 in our Antioxidants series
Tetley found themselves in hot water with the Advertising Standards Authority this month
Thanks in part to intensive marketing by the food and supplement industries, there’s a widely held belief that if something contains ‘antioxidants’ it’s automatically good for us.
But the scientific evidence behind this claim is pretty thin on the ground – thin enough to lead the Advertising Standards Authority to ask tea-makers Tetley to withdraw their advert for green tea this month.
As the ASA said in their ruling:
We considered that while [the advert] did not imply the tea had the same or similar health benefits to exercise, it did imply that the tea had some general health benefits beyond hydration, in particular because it contained antioxidants.
As we had not seen any evidence to demonstrate that green tea, or the antioxidants in it, had general health benefits we concluded that the ad was misleading.
These sorts of claims pop up all the time in advertising, particularly for foods and drinks, aswe’ve blogged about before.
Most of them involve products aimed at improving and prolonging health, or preventing disease. And as long as the balance of evidence suggests that these products cause no harm to healthy people, it’s difficult to see how regulators can prevent these sorts of claims being made.
But nevertheless, we’re concerned about the relentless portrayal of antioxidants as a universal health panacea, in the absence of robust scientific data – partly because there’s emerging evidence, including a paper published in the journal Cancer this month, that the knock-on effect is that some people undergoing cancer treatment may be taking them in high doses without thinking to tell their doctors (we’ll look more at this paper in a follow-up post)....
(Continues at the link in the heading "What are antioxidants?")
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