Tuesday, August 14, 2007
Antioxidants not all they're cracked up to be?
One of the questions I get the most as a doctor has to do with antioxidants. No surprise, given that around a third of the nation's adults take them. The claims about their benefits range from anti-aging to memory preservation to warding off heart disease. Truth is, there isn't nearly as much research into these supplements as I would like. So, for a long time, there were a few small studies that people would use to support their arguments either for, or against, taking antioxidant supplements.
That is why I was so interested in one of the largest studies looking specifically at the effect of three different antioxidants and heart disease in women. The researchers looked at almost 8,200 women who were at risk of heart disease and followed them for almost 10 years. The bottom line: While there was no harm from the antioxidants, there was no benefit as well.
Still, there is no doubt that eating food high in antioxidants is heart healthy. So, where is the disconnect? Well, it most likely has to do with the fact that fruits and vegetables are loaded with all sorts of things. Besides the antioxidants, there is fiber and certain micronutrients that may play a significant role in the way our body absorbs the precious antioxidants. In short, simply taking the "good stuff" out of food and putting it into a pill doesn't seem to work so well, because food packages things much better than we can.
So, why is it that we as Americans continue to spend billions of dollars a year on something that doesn't have a lot of data showing that it even works or is beneficial? Is it blind faith or do you think the science is just slow to catch up?
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