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Thread: Are antioxidants useless? page

  1. #1
    carlh's Avatar
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    Are antioxidants useless?

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    I'd hate to think the four cups of green tea I drink every weekday* have been for naught. However, the "relation to diet" section of the wikipedia page for antioxidants posits that despite recent enthusiasm for antioxidant-rich diets, there's no science to back up the claims.

    Please check out the link for more, but here's a couple excerpts:

    This idea [antioxidant compounds might lower risk against several diseases] has been tested in a limited manner in clinical trials and does not seem to be true, as antioxidant supplements have no clear effect on the risk of chronic diseases such as cancer and heart disease. This suggests that these health benefits come from other substances in fruits and vegetables (possibly dietary fiber) or come from a complex mix of compounds.
    antioxidant supplements do not appear to increase life expectancy in humans.
    I know it's poor form to cite Wikipedia, but the article itself links to many offsite articles.

    And I know they're talking about supplementation, but the best they can suggest in the above quote is that perhaps benefits come from "a complex mix of compounds."

    So yes eat your varied diet, of course, but do you need to bother seeking out antioxidant superfoods? It's easy to say just don't worry about it and make sure you have a varied diet - but I'd like to know if there's actual strong science to prove claims specifically about antioxidants themselves one way or another.

    With all the marketing around antioxidant rich diets, it definitely affects a lot of our food choices. I know whenever I eat blueberries the term "antioxidant rich!" is in the back of my mind. If it is dietary fiber instead of antioxidants, I think I still get plenty of it from whole (not juiced) vegetables.



    * I make green tea, iced, for hydration to drink while bike commuting. It's not a wonderful flavor, so I'd just as soon not bother making tea every night if there's no health benefit.

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    carlh's Avatar
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    For example, the page on green tea has this statement I find reassuring about seeking antioxidant-rich foods:

    an "Asian paradox"... refers to lower rates of heart disease and cancer in Asia despite high rates of cigarette smoking. They theorized that the 1.2 liters of green tea that is consumed by many Asians each day provides high levels of polyphenols and other antioxidants. These compounds may work in several ways to improve cardiovascular health...and improving cholesterol levels
    So at the least, it seems antioxidant supplements don't do much. But keeping an antioxidant-rich diet of real food may may be quite helpful overall.

  3. #3
    Paleobird's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by carlh View Post
    So at the least, it seems antioxidant supplements don't do much. But keeping an antioxidant-rich diet of real food may may be quite helpful overall.
    This is it right here, IMO. When we humans take something good out of nature and try to distill, heat, pulverize, and encapsulate it for consumption as a pill, is it any wonder we often miss out on the real goodness that was once there?

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    I've been hearing more and more on this lately. One study I read about showed that athletes who supplemented with antioxidents didn't adapt to they're training as well as controls. I guess this is similar to studies where subjects who take anti inflammatories don't make as significant gains in training as those who take a placebo. I guess for the body to get strong and fit, it needs to adapt to the stress on its own.

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    I agree with everyone else saying to concentrate on whole food sources of antioxidants and nutrients. In my opinion? Those green tea pills, vitamin C and e supplements, pomegranette extracts, super acai pills that everyone takes for antioxidants? Not whole foods. Won't have the same benefits.

    A nice, fresh cup of tea on the other hand? Totally a whole food. Comes straight from the leaf of the plant, and if you use loose leaf teas, is minimally processed. You'll get more than just the antioxidants from a cup of tea. You'll get them PLUS caffeine and a variety of other chemical compounds, which, assuming you don't abuse tea, have been shown to have their own benefits. In fact, in reasonable amounts, caffeine has been shown to be both cardiovascularly and mentally protective in human trials. Is it odd that people tout antioxidants contained in tea for having much the same effects? There must be a synergistic relationship of some kind there.

    Maybe those "decaffeinated" teas and tea pills aren't as useful as we thought, and we should just stick to consuming the beverage in its most pure, natural, whole food form, huh? I know, radical thought!
    Last edited by Drumroll; 09-11-2012 at 07:14 AM.

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    Fernaldo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Paleobird View Post
    This is it right here, IMO. When we humans take something good out of nature and try to distill, heat, pulverize, and encapsulate it for consumption as a pill, is it any wonder we often miss out on the real goodness that was once there?
    I was looking at all the powders/elixirs/potions in the "superfoods" section of my grocery store the other day. It's amazing how powerful marketing is. Acai, Jesus, where haven't you heard someone talking about it. It's in everything now. A co-worker was talking about it and I said you know cinnamon/vanilla bean/Tumeric have a higher ORAC value than Acai. "REALLY?!!?". Last time I checked Acai was about 18 bucks for 4 oz of freeze dried powder, cinnamon, uh.. pretty damn cheap and tastes waaaaay better.
    "The problem with quoting someone on the Internet is, you never know if it's legit" - Abraham Lincoln

  7. #7
    Paleobird's Avatar
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    Yeah, the only acai I use is actual acai berry puree that comes frozen and unsweetened (Sambazon brand). It is great in smoothies or mixed with raw cream for berry soft serve. It is very low carb even for a berry.

    I agree that acai pills are pretty useless.

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    Interesting little article I saw linked recently.... Antioxidants prevent health-promoting effects of physical exercise in humans. Antioxidants prevent health-promoting e - PubMed Mobile "Exercise increased parameters of insulin sensitivity (GIR and plasma adiponectin) only in the absence of antioxidants in both previously untrained (P < 0.001) and pretrained (P < 0.001) individuals".

    Then there is this Antioxidants block cell repair Seems while slowing damage antioxidant as supplements may actually also significantly impede autophagy also. Couple of things to think about and some mechanisms seem to be becoming clear as to why antioxidant supplementation doesn't seem to have the huge benefits as advertised.
    Last edited by Neckhammer; 09-11-2012 at 01:28 PM.

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    Drumroll's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Neckhammer View Post
    Interesting little article I saw linked recently.... Antioxidants prevent health-promoting effects of physical exercise in humans. Antioxidants prevent health-promoting e - PubMed Mobile "Exercise increased parameters of insulin sensitivity (GIR and plasma adiponectin) only in the absence of antioxidants in both previously untrained (P < 0.001) and pretrained (P < 0.001) individuals".

    Then there is this Antioxidants block cell repair Seems while slowing damage antioxidant as supplements may actually also significantly impede autophagy also. Couple of things to think about and some mechanisms seem to be becoming clear as to why antioxidant supplementation doesn't seem to have the huge benefits as advertised.
    You say supplementation, but those articles seem to be implying that antioxidants from ANY sources would have these effects, whole food sources or not.

    So, to play the devil's advocate, what makes whole foods any better than supplementation, if antioxidants from both sources are, according to the above, not really beneficial?

  10. #10
    Omni's Avatar
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    If you saw it on TV or read it in a newspaper, then it is most likely a misrepresented promotional ploy to sell product.
    Unless You can actually determine a deficiency of a particular substance, then supplementation may be detrimental to your health.
    A whole food source of anything is usually going to be safer and healthier as it by default mean that you are eating a healthy diet, whereas a supplement suggests you can eat crap and still stay healthy by popping a pill.

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