Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Why your Vitamin Water may be a waste of money

I’ve been on a little blogging hiatus, tackling a research review monster instead. The culmination of this monster is a 1-hour presentation of my findings at a conference for MD's and RD's from Illinois and Indiana. Which lying.

The Topic: Innovative Research on Antioxidant Supplementation and Implications for Overall Health and Mortality

If I play my cards right, this topic should be featured on Cosmopolitan’s “Conversation Starters” page any time now.

Hopefully you'll find this as interesting as I have!

A LONG TIME ago, back in 1959, a scientist by the name of Harman conducted some research resulting in what he called
Harman’s Theory. Basically, he said human cells produce oxidants leading to cell damage, disease…and eventually mortality. (Wamppp wamp).

The way to combat these oxidants, then, is with antioxidants produced by the body and obtained through foods. According to this theory, antioxidants should directly decrease disease and mortality.

Fifty one years later, this is the reason behind a slew of supplements and food products on the market today advertising increased antioxidants. The market for antioxidant supplementation is huge, and not only in food. Women's beauty products are also formulated around the antioxidant theory. Use of antioxidants to prevent aging is an idea so ingrained in us, it seems like a fundamental truth-
antioxidants help us live longer. Right?


The problem with this idea lies in the fact that in study after study, antioxidant supplementation does not reduce disease, and does not decrease mortality. I’m talking HUGE amounts of studies, conducted for over 50 years now. It’s just not happenin’.

In fact, in people who smoke, antioxidant supplementation actually has shown an increase in cancer, cardiovascular disease deaths, and all-around mortality.

What does this mean?

It means that oxidants may not be the bad guys. If oxidants aren’t the bad guys, maybe antioxidants aren’t really the heroes of the show, either.

Yes, fruits and veggies make us healthier. That is proven and not changing. Girlscout’s honor.

However, nobody has ever proven that the antioxidants taken out of the produce, isolated, and eaten gives us the same good effects as the fruits and veggies themselves.

Current research is actually looking to completely dispel Harman’s theory, instead implying that oxidation is helpful in cells, and increased oxidation actually leads to a longer life and better health.

All a fancy way of saying:
Hardship makes us stronger. Something the scientist Kanye West published in his dissertation years ago.

This alternative theory would explain why:
  • Exercise (which increases oxidation) leads to a longer life
  • Periodic fasting (which increases oxidation) leads to a longer life
  • Antioxidant supplementation (which gets rid of oxidants) does NOT lead to a longer life, and, in some, increases mortality

More and more, it is looking like the secret to longer life may lie in eating less, rather than supplementing with more.

Upside: Your meathead neighbor investing in $100/month antioxidant drink deliveries is probably just paying for very, very expensive pee. Joke's on him :)

I would like to hear from you!
What’s your best Cosmopolitan Conversation-Starter?
Dispelling antioxidant theory honestly isn’t my only one. Another of my favorites for a crowded room includes: If you could/absolutely had to make out with one person you can see right now, who would it be? If the answer is not “you,” then no use continuing conversation... on to the next!

Peace, Love, and Veggies,

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