Say It Ain't So! Nix on Antioxidants

Sad, but true.  Antioxidants won't make it easier to have a baby.  Cure cancer.  Or help you live longer.

Studies for some time have shown that these elements are not the miracle drug we once thought they were -- though my husband (who doesn't believe in doctors, but then, he's a dentist) still gulps a handful of supplements every day and this most likely won't stop him.

But according to a story at, a recent fertility study contradicted an earlier one that showed that partners of men who took antioxidants seemed to get pregnant more easily.  The new study, though scientists admitted it was of low quality, completely turned that treatment advice on its head.
You partner can take all the antioxidants he wants but it's probably not going to get you pregnant.

As someone who sought out every old wives' tale under the sun -- cut out diet soda (cyclamates), stop using the microwave, drink red raspberry leaf tea -- to get pregnant, I know how disappointing this must be.

But it's not just pregnancy that antioxidants don't promote, it's just about everything else.

Alexandra Sifferlin at reports that the new review is only the latest to raise doubts about the health benefits of antioxidants, "which have been touted as potent cancer-fighters and anti-aging allies."

She adds that, at one time, antioxidants were only present in foods such as berries, carrots, peppers and tomatoes. But they're "now added to flavored water and other products to earn a 'high in antioxidants' label."  You can't really go anywhere or buy anything -- to eat or drink, that is -- that doesn't seem to have a label, "antioxidants included."

But is this all just smoke and mirrors?

Sifferlin says it all has to do with free radicals and oxygen-based reactions, I'm not really sure of the science. "Free radicals are a natural byproduct of the body’s metabolism, but in most cases, naturally occurring antioxidants stabilize them and keep the damage to a minimum," she writes.

"When that balance is disturbed, however — and anything from exposure to pollutants to cigarette smoke to things you eat can shift this equilibrium — the production of free radicals may outrun the body’s ability to control them," she adds. That's how antioxidants became so popular.  "If the body needs more antioxidants, it couldn’t hurt to supply them in supplement form, right?"

But here's where the problem comes in.  Antioxidants can be found in vitamins like vitamin C, vitamin E, and beta-carotene, as well as minerals like manganese and selenium. "Then there are the other carotenoids and flavonoids and polyphenols. And, not surprisingly, each can have a different effect on the cells of the body," Sifferline recounts.

Scarily, in recent years, for example, scientists reported that beta-carotene, instead of lowering cancer rates, actually increased risk of dying from lung cancer or heart disease among a group of smokers. And I know many oncologists who suggest cancer patients stay away from antioxidants.

So do we take them, or don't we?  Experts agree that, if used in the proper dosages, they can have a good effect on health.  What's the proper dosage?  Wait for the next study!


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