Antioxidants are often mentioned here on Diabetv as being one of the beneficial properties found in many foods. In general, these substances have been popular ever since the early 90’s when early clinical trials suggested they could prevent many diseases. Studies during that period claimed to have found that cancer was more likely to occur in individuals who had low antioxidant diets, while the reverse was true for those who ate foods rich in them such as fruits and vegetables. Since then, companies have taken the opportunity to brand their products as naturally rich in antioxidants, or to supplement them artificially so that they contain them. The whole craze over these substances, as with many other fads in nutrition, led to many of their purported benefits to be either exaggerated or outright falsified. That being said, antioxidants are unquestionably beneficial for the body, but they are not miracle substances as many nutrition websites, books, companies, authors and “experts” have claimed over the past two decades.
There is no easy manner to prevent diseases from occurring in the body. Proper nutrition requires that we as human beings consume a variety of foods with many different properties to ensure that we remain as healthy as possible. This holds especially true for antioxidants, as the many varieties of these substances are found only by consuming all sorts of fruits and vegetables. Not all of them are the same either; each has its own chemical properties which interact differently with the human body. In general though, antioxidants are known to protect the body from naturally occurring substances known as “free radicals” that cause cell damage which leads to the development of many diseases.
Clinical studies have shown that the amount of antioxidants one gets from eating their daily recommend serving of fruits and vegetables is highly effective in preventing illness. What is dubious however is the supposed nutritional value of taking supplements that contain these substances. There is nothing to suggest, at least in regards to cancer, Alzheimer’s, cardiovascular problems and most other diseases that taking extra amounts of antioxidants as a pill has any beneficial effect. Quite the contrary, in some instances there were detrimental side effects from doing so. For example, in a 1996 Finnish experiment, heavy smokers were given either antioxidant pills or a placebo to see if they could help prevent the development of lung disease. Instead, the group of participants that took supplements saw an alarming increase in the occurrence of lung cancer, forcing scientist to end the study prematurely.
If there is any benefit to taking antioxidant pills, it can be found in combatting age related eye disease. Extensive, long term research has shown that taking these substances taken as a supplement can prevent macular degeneration. But even here these pills are limited, as they seem to have no effect in stopping the occurrence of cataracts for individuals who are at high risk for them.
What one should take away from this article is that antioxidants are important, but there is no need to go overboard with them or buy into the sensationalism surrounding them. Simply eating one’s daily recommended serving of fruits and vegetables is enough to reap the benefits of these potent substances. So far as studies have indicated, there does not seem to be any benefit in taking antioxidant supplements, and there are possibly even some health risks associated. As always, simply having proper nutrition is often times enough to get the job done for personal health.