In the UK, it’s a £175 million a year industry, and South Africa isn’t far behind. We’re talking about antioxidant supplements – from daily doses of vitamin A and C, to super-foods such as blueberries and almonds.
For years we’ve been waging a war against free-radicals – those mysterious, corrosive molecules which cause oxidation and ageing in our bodies, and which we breathe in from pollution and smoking. But is there any truth to it, or have we let our obsession to prevent disease, live longer and look younger – go too far? Apparently so! Latest studies suggest we might be wasting our money – as researchers say that free radicals don’t cause ageing, and taking antioxidant supplements might actually cause our bodies to age faster.
Wait, what?! In short, free radicals damage the cells, proteins and DNA in our bodies by messing with their chemical structure. This long-term damage to our cells is why we inevitably age and develop diseases such as cancer later in life. That was the original thinking. Now, however, researchers have discovered that free radicals can actually make our cells live longer.
If you’re interested, you can read more about how free radicals work in your body, in the original article: Scientists Bust the Antioxidant Myth.
Researchers were quick to point out though that results aside, the antioxidants we derive from the food we eat are important, and they do have a protective effect on the cells in our body. The key is: it’s the lower doses of antioxidants which we get from food that does this, not the high doses we get from taking supplements.
So is there a time when vitamin and antioxidant supplements are beneficial?
Yes; young children, elderly people and pregnant women might be advised to take them, but for the rest of us it’s better to focus on a healthy diet, and spend our money on fresh, whole foods instead.