Anti-oxidants – The Real Truth

What I’m about to say will not be very popular, the truth often is not but use your intelligence and make up your own mind before you spend more money on anti-oxidants.

For 50 years, it’s been thought that oxidative stress was a leading cause of chronic disease and aging. Oxidative stress, it was said, occurs when “superoxide” free radicals — toxic oxygen molecules produced by normal body processes but also via external sources like stress and pollution — spiral out of control and cause molecular damage.

Countless anti-aging products and diets have been created based on the theory of oxidative stress — and the notion that antioxidants could counteract some of the damage.

Now researchers at the Institute of Healthy aging at UCL (University College London) have found that the theory may not be right after all.

“It Just Doesn’t Stand Up to the Evidence”

In the study, published in the journal Genes & Development, Dr. David Gems and colleagues manipulated certain genes in worms in order to control their ability to “mop up” surplus superoxide free radicals and limit damage caused by oxidation. They found that the lifespan of the worms was relatively unaffected by their ability to get rid of free radicals.

“The fact is that we don’t understand much about the fundamental mechanisms of aging,” Dr. Gems said in Science Daily. “The free radical theory of aging has filled a knowledge vacuum for over 50 years now, but it just doesn’t stand up to the evidence.”

The implication is, then, that if oxidative stress is not a major cause of aging, then antioxidants would not play a major role in preventing the aging process.

“A healthy, balanced diet is very important for reducing the risk of developing many diseases associated with old age, such as cancer, diabetes and osteoporosis,” Dr. Gems told Science Daily. “But there is no clear evidence that dietary antioxidants can slow or prevent aging. There is even less evidence to support the claims of most anti-aging products.”

If free radicals don’t play a role, then what IS the cause of aging?

“One of the hallmarks of aging is the accumulation of molecular damage, but what causes this damage?” says Dr. Gems. “It’s clear that if superoxide is involved, it only plays a small part in the story. Oxidative damage is clearly not a universal, major driver of the aging process. It is pretty well accepted among the scientific community that the mechanism that drives aging is telomere shortening. At the ends of our DNA are repeating sequences of redundant nucleotides called telomeres, every time our cells divide these strands shorten until finally they are too shorts to maintain the chromosome and the cell senses and dies. While we don’t have a cure for aging, we’re working on it!  In the mean time we do know that supporting healthy hormone levels is useful in the natural aging process.

Think about it. It doesn’t make any sense at all oxidative stress is caused by oxygen so it would logically follow that the more oxygen we use up the faster we would age, right? Is that right? Do we see that athletes tend to age faster than everyone else? Of course not, in fact the opposite seems truer. Would the healthiest thing we could possibly do be to just sit around not breathing much? Maybe if we cut our oxygen even more by smoking? Surely using the oxidative stress model of aging that would add years to our lives wouldn’t it? And if we could manipulate the speed at which we age by something as variable as our levels of anti-oxidants then surely there would be a huge difference in the rate that people age but the fact is there simply is not.

The reason this ridiculous theory emerged in the first place is that all the experiments done on oxidative stress were, like most science, done on mice, now mice don’t have the inbuilt ability to deal with free radicles that humans possess and in humans our ability to deal with free radicles increases with exercise which is why we get healthier rather than unhealthier when we exercise, make sense? Back to the poor mice, almost all mice eventually die from cancer caused by free radicles due to oxidative stress so it makes a lot of sense to make sure that your diet is full of antioxidants and to take a good anti-oxidant supplement daily. IF YOU ARE A MOUSE! If not do some exercise and save your money for something that might actually have some benefit.