It really took off back in the 70’s. Have a cold, take big doses of Vitamin C. Jump to the 80’s, and Vitamin C could help cure cardiovascular disease, HIV, even cancer. Vitamin sales boomed, along with the common cold, heart disease, HIV, and cancer.
The theory, was Vitamin C, an antioxidant like Vitamin E, Betacarotene, and Folic Acid helped neutralize highly reactive molecules know as “free radicals.” During cellular metabolism, our cells “leak” these free radicals that were thought to have negative effects on our bodies.
Like many seemingly obvious conclusions in medicine, it wasn’t until full randomized multi blind studies were completed, that a collective “oops” was muttered. Turns out that taking antioxidant supplements might actually be doing us harm. Beta carotene increased death rates in regular long term users. Men taking multi vitamins are twice as likely to die from prostate cancer. Vitamin E increased the risk of strokes. The list goes on.
Current studies are now discovering that those once pesky free radicals might just have numerous benefits; including fighting off infections. More importantly, the safest conclusion is there’s a lot going on in our bodies in regards to pro and anti oxidants that are not fully understood. After decades of studies and biochemical research, hundreds of thousands of volunteers, and millions spent, we still have a long way to go to grasp the full complexities of oxidants.
Our best option of course, get your antioxidants from food and a well balanced diet. Especially since the the balance of pro oxidants and other compounds are not fully understood. Or like we advise our kids, “eat 5 a day”.