“Antioxidants are a perfect example of the saying, “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.” This is especially true when the “lie” is promising, but very preliminary scientific research that turns out to be mostly false, or at least much more complicated.
In the 1990s preliminary research increasingly showed that oxidative stress played an important role in cell damage. The resultant hypothesis was that if oxidative stress is causing disease and aging, then antioxidants would slow, or even stop, the progression of disease and aging.
The supplement industry, as it often does, jumped on these preliminary findings, making all manner of exaggerated claims, and the rest is history.
The narrative that antioxidant supplementation is good for us has become deeply engrained in our culture, when in fact balance is really the key factor. “If a little is good, more must be better,” is a good red flag that the claim is either false or greatly oversimplified.
With regard to antioxidants, the prevailing evidence shows that supplementation is unnecessary (unless there is a deficiency), and in some cases even harmful. There is strong new evidence that vitamin A, Vitamin E, and beta-carotene supplementation results in higher mortality among both healthy people and those with various diseases.”
When the press release arrived in our inboxes, we knew what would happen next. A controversial Nobel laureate had stated, in a peer-reviewed paper he described as “among my most important work”, that antioxidant supplements “may have caused more cancers than they have prevented”.