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 nutraingredients-usa.com 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.

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