Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Taking antioxidant supplements

They’re supposed to reduce your risk of cancer and heart disease and even diminish the effects of aging, but, if you take antioxidants as a pill or some other drug-like form, chances are they aren’t doing anything at all. The basic idea behind the hype is that antioxidants, chemicals found in fruits and vegetables, can help reduce damage to various parts of your body by balancing unstable chemicals known as free radicals.
Without antioxidants, free radicals start trying to stabilize themselves—often by swiping molecules from your DNA, damaging it in the process. So far, so good. The free radical-fighting power of antioxidants has been demonstrated in the lab and people who eat plant-heavy diets are less likely to suffer from the diseases linked to free radicals. But, as Dr. Lisa Melton wrote in an article in the August 2006 issue of New Scientist magazine, many studies have shown that people who get their antioxidants from popular supplements receive none of the health benefits. In fact, Melton cited a few studies that even suggested antioxidant supplements were leading to worse internal damage, including a 1992 study by the National Cancer Institute that had to be cancelled after the patients taking beta carotene supplements actually began developing higher rates of lung cancer than those taking sugar pills.


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