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Antioxidants industry takes on new high with the novel generation of supplements introduced in the recent years. Their real benefits and value for money, however, remain questionable.

With the growing number of people pursuing healthy lifestyle and conscious about food they eat, antioxidants are becoming more and more popular. Any self-respecting food producer announces the antioxidant contents of his produces. Production of antioxidant supplements has grown into an independent huge multimillion dollar industry.

This is not surprising: the positive effect of antioxidants on human health seem to be proven beyond any reasonable doubts.

Marketing and science speak different language

Unfortunately, science and marketing are not necessarily speaking the same language. Many claims used by healthy food advertisers make very little scientific sense. Claims like “100% Vitamin C” on the bottle of energy drink do catch attention of customers and certainly increase the sales of product but leave anyone with proper scientific background profoundly confused.

Indeed, the addition of some vitamins to this drink does increase its antioxidant content and can supply you with necessary daily dose of vitamin C. It does not mean, however, that the energy drink in question are so remarkably reach with vitamin C or even healthy at all. The same daily dose can be obtained by eating just one single orange.

There is a marketing wisdom behind such claims, however. Studies do show that mentioning the word “antioxidant” on the package strongly increases the products’ sales. Positive perception of products takes its roots in consumer’s psychology. Marketing campaign has successfully made us believe in antioxidants and their importance. Antioxidant industry is currently estimated to be worth $500 million and continues to grow.

Products like energy drinks, sport bars, yogurts, milk and chocolate with addition of antioxidants have better chances to be sold even for higher price. The fact is, many of these processed foods are not necessarily as good for your health as the old fashioned but boring fruits.

Antioxidants not necessarily make your diet healthier

Since antioxidants are healthy, many customers assume that taking lots of antioxidant supplements will bring significant health benefits. Unfortunately, this opinion is simply not supported by any scientific evidences. For instance, if you are taking antioxidants with the aim of preventing heart disease, the chances are that you are wasting your money.

Several research published in 2004 have found no evidences that vitamins C, vitamin E and beta-carotine provide protection against cardiovascular diseases and stroke in the clinical trials.

Taking large doses of antioxidants can even be dangerous. The results of studies published in 2005 have shown that vitamin E supplementation led to higher risk of heart failure. In another study, beta-carotine was increasing the chances of developing the lung cancer among heavy smokers.

Continue reading after recommendations

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  • Dietary supplementation with n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and vitamin E after myocardial infarction: results of the GISSI-Prevenzione trial. Gruppo Italiano per lo Studio della Sopravvivenza nell’Infarto miocardico. Lancet. 1999
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  • Albanes D, Heinonen OP, Taylor PR, et al. Alpha-tocopherol and beta-carotene supplements and lung cancer incidence in the alpha-tocopherol, beta-carotene cancer prevention study: effects of base-line characteristics and study compliance. J Natl Cancer Inst. 1996
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  • Photo courtesy of Doramon by Flickr :
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