Industry rejects New Scientist antioxidant attack

Industry members have rebuked a recent New Scientist article that slammed the efficacy of antioxidant supplements such as vitamin C, vitamin E and carotenoids. They claim the article highlighted research that was misrepresentative of the manner in which most people actually consume antioxidant supplements.

The story questioned whether anti-oxidant supplements had any physiological benefit and suggested in some cases their consumption may even be detrimental to the human body.

Referencing a number of studies, it went on to say that while gaining a cocktail of antioxidants from fruits and vegetables and other foods may be beneficial to the body, combating free-radical build-up, it did not necessarily follow that consuming individual anti-oxidants in the form of supplements would be similarly helpful.

It is a position that has been refuted by scientists such as Rob Child, PhD, an antioxidants specialist and co-founder of UK-based ingredients supplier CR-Technologies. Child argued supplements are often taken in combination and not in the 'single-hit' manner in which many studies are designed. He said such studies often followed pharmaceutical trial guidelines that tested for efficacy of treatment of disease and not the more common disease-prevention role of dietary supplementation.

The author of the New Scientist article, Dr Lisa Melton, did quote the Washington DC-based Council for Responsible Nutrition's scientific and regulatory affairs vice president, Andrew Shao, presenting a similar argument but this was buried near the conclusion. Shao subsequently has stated he was misquoted in the story. He told that researchers need to "rethink how to design and execute trials."

Daniel Fabricant, vice president of scientific affairs at another Washington DC-based trade group, the Natural Products Association (formerly NNFA), noted the difficulty of getting coverage for multi-input research.

"The problem is it is harder to quantify the benefits of multicomponent trials and that is why stories like the one in New Scientist gain currency. Multicom-ponent studies are largely ignored."

"The human body has a very complex antioxidant system," Child told FF&N. "Conducting a study where the end result is to see what happens if you give people a whole load of vitamin C is not necessarily reflective of the benefits of vitamin C if it is consumed in a multivitamin, for instance. Taking supplements in this way may even upset the body's natural anti-oxidant balance. So these approaches are flawed because they are not reflective of actual consumption patterns.

"The author of this article has not referenced the literature where a spectrum of antioxidants has been employed," he said.

Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.