A 35-year-old overweight lady caused some commotion at the check-out counter of a supermarket when she tried to pay for a few bottles of antioxidants with a Food Stamps Debit Card. Antioxidants? Do they still exist? What happened to them?
"The fountain of youth is discovered," touted the media with great fanfare somewhere in the early 90's. Only, one daily dietary supplement would stop aging. A eureka moment made famous scientists, Rebeca Gerschman, Denham Harman and others, realize the importance of oxygen leaks deep down in tiny cell particles, mitochondria, as the destructive force, which causes aging and death.
Free radical (O and OH) were capable of damaging proteins, mutating DNA and initiate long, deadly chain reactions, ultimately creating a crescendo of destruction, culminating in an ‘ error catastrophe,’ that ultimately caused apoptosis or cell death.
If free radicals were bad, antioxidants were good. Supposedly, antioxidants reacted with free radicals, thus blocking adverse reactions. Antioxidants, heralded as a panacea for aging, instantly became the ultimate anti-aging remedy. Note: Many foods, including fruits, and vegetables contain antioxidants; and they are abundantly available as expensive dietary supplements in health food stores.
But then in the 1990’s, irrefutable facts from experimental testing debunked the claims. The findings were clear. “Antioxidants most certainly do not prolong life or prevent disease. Taking high dose antioxidant supplements carried a modest but consistent risk; you were more likely to die early. Bizarrely, pro-oxidants could extend the lifespan.” (Free radicals in Biology and Medicine: Barry Halliwell, John Gutteridge, Clarendon Press, 1985)
In spite of these findings, fringe medicine continued to peddle the assumed benefits of antioxidants. Glossy magazines and cult books preached the false gospel of antioxidants, and the shelves of health food and drugstores remained abundantly stocked.
“Studies have long shown that those on lower incomes spend a larger proportion of their incomes on food. “(The Food Standards Agency « Low Income Diet and Nutrition Survey (LIDNS), 2007).
It is even worse; lower income groups spend disproportionate amounts of money on heath food store supplements. That is why it hurts to see customers pay for totally worthless expensive food supplements with Food Stamp Debit cards.
Please alarm those in your circle that the antioxidants fountain of youth is a real fairytale.
By Jacob Gelt Dekker
Columnist for Curaçao Chronicle