The Weight of Evidence is Against Antioxidants

As noted in the past here at Fight Aging!, the weight of evidence suggests that presently available antioxidant supplements either do nothing or somewhat harm long term health - the fervor for them is nothing more than magical thinking based on the effects antioxidants can have on cells in culture, and on the beneficial effects of mitochondrially targeted antioxidant compounds. That, however, is a long way removed from what you eat and what happens in a complex system like a living animal. Fortunately, sense is slowly starting to emerge in the media: "Few medical remedies have a more sterling reputation than that assortment of foods, pills, and general life maneuvers known collectively as 'antioxidants.' At last, here's something that promises better heart health, improved immunity, a pellucid complexion as well as relief against cancer, arthritis, and the blahs - and it's all-natural! What's not to like? Well, there is a wee small problem in our ongoing anti-oxidize-athon: As it turns out, we have no evidence that antioxidants are beneficial in humans. ... In fact [the] best available data demonstrate that antioxidants are bad for you - so long as you count an increased risk of death as 'bad.' ... But, hey, who ever let a little evidence stand in the way of a good time? Especially in this case, when the charge toward lifestyle legitimacy has been led by willowy celebrities with karmic equipoise."



I was amused by your unsustantiated para,linked to Kent Sepkowitz's ritzy article, claiming the weight of evidence is against antioxidants. The strange case of the French penchant for drinking red wine, which by design or otherwise, lifts that nation's longevity in spite of their sumptuous bad eating habits. Why? It turns out, as you well know, that red wine is, inta-alia, a powerful anti-oxidant in the form of resveratrol.If your claim is true, that anti-oxidants are harmful in the long term, then surely the French statistics on longevity should be appalling. Cheers Ken (long term anti-oxidant popper!)

Posted by: Ken Bullock at August 15th, 2011 3:37 AM

In 1968 Harman published a dietary antioxidant study showing that the food preservative BHT fed over a lifetime to mice produced a 45% increase in life span. Harman became concerned that although many of his studies showed an increase in average lifespan by antioxidants, none showed an increase in maximum life span.

After years of frustration over his inability to increase maximum lifespan with antioxidant supplements, Harman came to the conclusion that mitochondria were producing as well as being damaged by free radicals, but that exogenous antioxidants don't enter the mitochondria. And that it is mitochondria that determine lifespan. He published his ideas on what he called the "Mitochondrial Theory of Aging" in the April 1972 issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.[2][6]

Posted by: cez thomas at October 24th, 2011 12:06 PM

Not surprised to see this was originally published on, I seem to remember them publishing a lot of opinion pieces such as denying climate change and other things that the real scientists all agree on.

Posted by: Dave at December 16th, 2011 11:16 AM

Ken Bullock. In that case it should be really easy to show beneficial result in studies looking at red wine or resveratrol (in dietarily relevant amounts): it isn't. One can't infer from the "French paradox" (eating slightly more saturated fat than other countries should kill you, but it doesn't!) that it must be the red wine and it must be one of the compounds having antioxidant action.

Posted by: David Moss at June 1st, 2013 1:52 PM

Where the story gets distorted is that there is a deluge of human studies supporting the steady moderate intake of full-spectrum polyphenols in the prevention and treatment of a wide range of maladies, but that curiously never made it into the widely criticized Copenhagen study these people weirdly keep referring to.

The problem is the few studies the anti-antioxidant crowd are basing their cynicism on have quite literally only ever found trivial but error-prone numbers associated with 'vitamin exclusive' antioxidant intake (e.g. Vitamin A, B, C, D, E), but not polyphenol antioxidants (flavonoids, catechins).

So we know that consuming egregious amounts of vitamin antioxidants may do nothing or hurt us, and we know moderate polyphenol antioxidants intake has the ability to profoundly helps us. Yet the message somehow got trimmed to, "antioxidants don't work."

There's something both concerning and hysterical about authors who fancy themselves realists who have unwittingly fixated on malformed narratives based on limited, frequently flawed study, and outright factual omission. As a consequence of this lazy thinking, they're misinforming the public, and undermining their own credibility.

Posted by: BSotoSF at February 18th, 2014 5:06 PM
Comment Submission

Post a comment; thoughtful, considered opinions are valued. New comments can be edited for a few minutes following submission. Comments incorporating ad hominem attacks, advertising, and other forms of inappropriate behavior are likely to be deleted.

Note that there is a comment feed for those who like to keep up with conversations.