Are antioxidants on life support? Oxygen?

Screen Shot 2014-12-03 at 3.08.16 PMIn our perpetual more of the same list, yet another study should help throw an extra shovel of dirt on a longstanding fad antioxidants, this time vitamins C and E. Perhaps the darlings of the supplement world (at least today), antioxidants have been touted as useful for pretty much everything from preventing aging and cancer to getting better gas mileage for your SUV.

And the results in proper clinical studies are always the same: they either do nothing, or maybe even harm.

The latter was discussed in a recent New York Times article entitled Why Antioxidants Don t Belong in Your Workout. Author Gretchen Reynolds wrote about something that regular Dispatch readers have seen time after time that supplements in general never live up to their hype. And there is plenty of hype, especially about antioxidants.

Thus, it is not surprising that these vitamins have failed yet again this time in apparently minimizing the benefits of weight training.

In a study published in The Journal of Physiology, Dr. Gøran Paulsen and colleagues studied the impact of the vitamin supplements on a small group of people who were doing weight training. Did the vitamins help? No. But surprisingly (?) they actually did the opposite.

Compared to the placebo group, men and women who took both vitamins C and E experienced no overall benefit, but actually lost strength in bicep curling. Furthermore, examination of biochemical markers of muscle growth revealed that changes at the cellular level were consistent with the study observations.

So, is there any use for antioxidants other than boosting sales of pomegranate juice at Whole Foods?

ACSH friend, Dr. David Seres, the director of nutritional medicine at New York Presbyterian Hospital, and a vocal critic of the unregulated supplements industry in general, and antioxidants in particular, pulls no punches: When tested properly in randomized trials, many antioxidants have actually proven to be more harmful than helpful. For example, vitamin E supplementation predisposes some people to prostate cancer, while vitamin C is associated with an increase in the incidence of lung cancer in smokers. The current laws have created a nutritional Wild West; these substances should be far better regulated.

ACSH s Dr. Josh Bloom, also a vocal (but ruder) critic of the industry says, It is important to note that the two useless vitamins are far from the only so-called antioxidants that are being shamelessly marketed. Other chemicals called polyphenols and bioflavonoids mostly found in plants are found in a variety of foods, such as blueberries, grapes, tea and dark chocolate. Not surprisingly people have been stuffing their faces with 70 percent chocolate thinking that they will live forever. And their pants mysteriously shrink without even getting washed. Go figure.

In the end it s same old, same old people being manipulated into buying useless or even harmful junk, thinking that this will somehow help their health. Which is pretty much the marketing plan for the very successful companies that help them delude themselves.