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June 9, 2009 6:46 PM   Subscribe

Sports drinks and sodas are adding antioxidant vitamins to transcend their caloric nature and appear "healthy". Antioxidants defend against reactive oxygen species, which are purported to be causative agents in aging and cancer. However, a recent study has shown that supplementation with large amounts of antioxidant vitamins negates many of the beneficial effects of exercise.
posted by benzenedream (12 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
The results of that study are pretty shocking and are another data point in favor more natural diets. However, it's important to be mindful of the fact that the levels of antioxidants we're talking about in this study are massive. They gave people 10 times the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of vitamin C and 20 times the RDA of vitamin E.

For example, you'd have to eat about 20 oranges to get that level of vitamin C naturally. Similarly, you're talking about eating about 2.5lbs of almonds to match the vitamin E content.

The conclusion from this study shouldn't be "avoid antioxidants". It should be avoid massive doses of antioxidants, if you're an athlete or physically active. Unsurprisingly, this is pretty easy to do if you're getting your antioxidants from fruits and vegetables rather than a pill.
posted by christonabike at 7:01 PM on June 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


The notion that antioxidants prevent disease has been pretty thoroughly debunked. Also, if you're a vitamin C megadoser, you should be aware that it's pretty worthless.
posted by christonabike at 7:13 PM on June 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Another thing that's glossed over in the article is that the experiment was performed on *forty* subjects. Those 40 were divided into four groups of ten. Uh, statistically valid sample size, anyone?

Getting into that discussion would certainly diminish the headline though.

Plenty of icing, not so much cake.
posted by storybored at 7:15 PM on June 9, 2009


>Those 40 were divided into four groups of ten. Uh, statistically valid sample size, anyone?

Do you realize he linked the actual study so you can see the P-values for yourself? They observed significant decreases in many regulators of insulin sensitivity, some with P values < 0.001 and almost all < 0.05.
posted by christonabike at 7:24 PM on June 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


The results of that study are pretty shocking and are another data point in favor more natural diets. However, it's important to be mindful of the fact that the levels of antioxidants we're talking about in this study are massive. They gave people 10 times the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of vitamin C and 20 times the RDA of vitamin E.

For example, you'd have to eat about 20 oranges to get that level of vitamin C naturally. Similarly, you're talking about eating about 2.5lbs of almonds to match the vitamin E content.


The real story here is that these levels of Vit C (1000mg/day) and E (400IU/day) are routinely, and I say this advisedly, routinely taken by a great number of people - bah, even bigger amounts. Just as a comparison - Trader Joe's Multi has a recommended daily dose of 400IU/day of vit E, and 800mg/day of C. Tons of people take more than that - much, much more. And here we are talking about a supermarket multi. Go to a health store or supplement store like Vitamin Shoppe or any of the GNC chain stores, and you'll see multiple of these values - it will make the amounts used in this study look positively tiny.

It is hard to overdose on vitamins from a regular diet - that's true (except for a few, like vit. A if you regularly consume something exotic, like cod liver oil etc.). However, that's not the point - the point is that many people supplement. And if you supplement with anything other than RDA mounts, which a lot of people do, you can easily take in more than the amounts specified here.
posted by VikingSword at 7:55 PM on June 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


> ...these levels of Vit C (1000mg/day) and E (400IU/day) are routinely, and I say this advisedly, routinely taken by a great number of people...

VikingSword, you're absolutely correct and I didn't mean to gloss over that point. However, the benefits of a daily multivitamin are have already been revealed to be minimal (in 2006, a 13 person NIH panel did not recommend daily multivitamin use).

I see multivitamins not all that differently from all natural soda or organic mac n' cheese. These are items people consume because they want to do unhealthy things, like skip their vegetables and eat sweet and fatty goodies. The labeling on these products convinces them that it's okay to do so: All natural! Organic! 500mcg lycopene! These products let consumers feel as if they're behaving healthfully, when in reality, they're not.

That's because being healthy is hard. It means exercise regularly (and intensely!), eating your vegetables and whole grains, and being disciplined. Which pretty much sucks. So when people are offered a panacaea for $19.95, it's not surprising that a lot of people take it. That's why there's such an extensive market for pseudo-scientific garbage supplements and miracle exercise gizmos. While multivitamins are significantly better than most of that stuff, they're not that much better.

Ultimately, you've got to bite the bullet and put in some work.
posted by christonabike at 8:54 PM on June 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


Neat, I'm gonna forward this to my mom; she takes god-knows how many supplement pills every day even though we all eat healthily and get our RDA of nutrients from the food itself. She also exercises regularly so that it may be in her best interest to cut down on supplements should be positive news.
posted by pyrex at 11:48 PM on June 9, 2009


Uh, statistically valid sample size, anyone?

It seems to me that almost inevitably people who make this kind of comment don't actually have the chops to make the statement.

Getting into that discussion would certainly diminish the headline though.

No, let's get into that discussion. Please explain how this study has failed to use a methodology that would allow them to claim to have statistically significant findings. Use actual statistical analysis maths and language in presenting your view. It's been a couple decades since I last studied statistics in university, but I'm pretty sure that I'll be able to use the web to re-learn it fast enough. I might also go have a dig, see if I can find an old stats book or two. I think I kept PDQ Statistics.
posted by five fresh fish at 1:16 AM on June 10, 2009 [3 favorites]


It should be avoid massive doses of antioxidants, if you're an athlete or physically active

Okay, avoiding the 'fixed that for you' meme, let me just do it this way:

avoid massive doses of anything, period.
posted by DreamerFi at 2:01 AM on June 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


When I die, I want the light blazing from behind the crematorium door to blaze purple and shoot off green sparks. That is why I take a multi every day.
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:02 AM on June 10, 2009 [3 favorites]


avoid massive doses of anything, period.

"period" here meaning "except Double Stuf Oreo Cookies".
posted by everichon at 2:15 PM on June 10, 2009


I wouldn't make any major lifestyle changes based on the results of a single study. But if you want a takeaway here, the lesson may be that's it's a good idea to hold off on taking antioxidants the same day you work out. Maybe.
posted by Kevin Street at 9:19 PM on June 11, 2009


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