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The Antioxidant Myth


Antioxidants are everywhere.

Just as the “low-fat” labeling boom of the 1980s gave us a collective excuse to inhale the entire package of Snackwell’s cookies in just one sitting, industry vogue has recently turned to antioxidants to steer product sales.

Take a trip down the cereal aisle and you are sure to see unproven health claims unconscionably plastered alongside cartoon characters. Some read “25% MORE ANTIOXIDANTS!”. But let us not forget that an additional twenty-five percent of zero is still zero.

A nightly glass or two (maybe three) of red wine isn’t just a way to relax (or binge) anymore. It has become an act of health and preservation. Resveratrol, found in the skins of red grapes and thus red wines, has been shown to have powerful antioxidant/anti-inflammatory properties. Yet, so easily we forget about the free-radical producing pesticides in each non-organic glass. At the same time, we wonder why our blood sugars crash in the middle of the night waking us up. There has to be a better way.

And let’s not forget my own personal favorite, dark chocolate. Even I can’t resist the temptation to grab a bar on the way to the raw cheese aisle at Whole Foods. Why not? It’s got antioxidants! ☺

No product on the market is more oxymoronic as the current line of Diet Coke with Antioxidants. Hello! The artificial sweetener aspartame creates free radicals. And just how in the world antioxidants can survive while bottled up at a pH of 3 is beyond me. You can use Diet Coke to clean your toilet!

Why all the antioxidant hype? Because we need them. Everyone who eats food and breathes air accumulates oxidative stress, or free radical damage. Industry has found itself the ultimate demographic (everyone) and turned it into a 37 billion dollar a year industry.

As I described in my previous posts, oxidative stress is associated with over 200 diseases. Just as our vehicles emit exhaust as a byproduct of the burning of fuel, our cells emit free radicals. These scavenger molecules are missing an electron in their outer shells and will do anything to fill them, including stealing electrons from your cellular apparatus. Such cellular thievery may damage DNA, proteins (enzymes), and cell membranes.

Simply put, your cells make up your body. When these cells are damaged, you body is damaged. Chaos and disorder ensue, creating the foundation for disease and accelerated aging.

The antioxidant craze is certainly well intended, however misguided in many ways. The very idea that consuming exogenous antioxidants through our diets will significantly reduce oxidative stress is a flawed paradigm backed by disappointing research and outdated dogma. That is not to say that antioxidant vitamins and phytonutrients play no positive role in health. There is no question that they do. Yet in terms of neutralizing free radicals, they are less effective than most would expect.

Let’s use vitamins C and E as examples. Vitamin C works in the watery parts of the cell, such as the cytosol or intracellular fluid. Vitamin E works in the fatty areas such as the cell membrane, or what is called the phospholipid bilayer. Vitamin E also protects the fatty membranes of the organelles within the cells (nucleus, mitochondria, etc.). This is why it is often recommended that we take our fish oils with vitamin E to protect the fats from oxidizing during digestion.

Vitamins C and E are by their very nature electron donors. They like to give. When a vitamin molecule detects a nasty free radical tip-toeing around your cells looking for someone to rob, it acts like a good Samaritan stepping between the victim (DNA, protein, membrane) and attacker (free radical), giving up its life (electron) to protect and preserve your cells.

When vitamins neutralize free radicals they are left with a small problem. Though less dangerous than the original free radical, good Samaritans are now missing an electron in their outer shells and have become free radicals themselves. A cycle of regeneration ensues. Vitamin C regenerates Vitamin E. Vitamin E returns the favor. Alpha lipoic acid can regenerate either.

The process described above is the foundation on which the antioxidant industry stands. It has made household names of acai, mangosteen, and gogi berries. ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity), a unit of measurement of antioxidants, has also become part of the health and wellness nomenclature. Increased awareness is certainly a step in the right direction. But the answer to whether or not dietary antioxidants are significantly effective at reducing oxidative stress is a definitive NO.

Surprised? You should be. So was I.

The fact of the matter is that the world has changed. Sources of oxidative stress go beyond our metabolism, with inflammation, infections, toxins, poor diet, stress, radiation, and excessive exercise all contributing to the free radical fire raging within. Instead of fighting the fire with fire hoses, dietary antioxidants are the equivalent of fighting that fire with enough water to fill a Dixie cup. You’re going to lose that battle every time.

Allow me to explain.

Our cells were designed to produce what are called antioxidant enzymes. These enzymes include glutathione, superoxide dismutase, catalase, and paraoxinase-1. Prior to the age of twenty, our genes instruct our cells to generate tons of these enzymes to neutralize free radicals. Yet as we enter the third decade of life, enzyme production slows. Just as an older vehicle emits more exhaust, free radical damage accumulates, oxidative stress rises, aging accelerates, and disease risk increases.

Modern antioxidant dogma would like us to believe that antioxidant food sources, juices, and supplements will make up for the age-related reduction in antioxidant enzyme production, but this is simply impossible. Check this out!

On average, our bodies produce 300,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 free radicals daily.

That’s 300 sextillion! Who knew that was even a number?

Here’s the rub. As described above, one exogenous (dietary) antioxidant neutralizes a single free radical. Are you taking in 300 sextillion antioxidants daily? Not even close. You would need to consume the antioxidants found in 375 oranges or 87 glasses of red wine or about 120 vitamin C tablets (500mg) a day to neutralize that many free radicals!

Maybe it’s about time we throw away our Dixie cups.

Antioxidant enzymes neutralize free radicals at a rate of one million per second! They are what kept us healthy and spry throughout our early years. The question is how do we persuade our cells to make more of them.

The answer is this supplement, the most effective indirect antioxidant on the market. (It’s a network marketing company, so I’m not allowed to say the name online…)

What is an indirect antioxidant? Well, instead of directly consuming dietary antioxidants, this supplement and its synergist blend of natural ingredients used for centuries instruct our DNA to activate what are caused survival genes. These genes instruct your cells to produce more antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-fibrotic enzymes.

Fire hoses on!

Peer-reviewed published studies have found that after only 30 days on it, oxidative stress is reduced by 40-70%. The age-related increase in oxidative stress literally disappears. The oxidative stress of an 80 year-old looks like that of a 20 year-old.

If this sounds too good to be true, you are not alone. Even I was huge skeptic. However the independent tier-one research out of universities like VCU, LSU, and Harvard, as well as my own personal testimonial of rapid exercise recovery, unusually fast hair growth, and more youthful skin were more than enough to convince me that it was no snake oil. Add to that the fact that the formulator Dr. Joe McCord was awarded the Elliott Cresson Medal for discovering the field of free radical biology in living organisms.

A cursory look at its ingredients is not as impressive as one might imagine. Turmeric, bacopa, milk thistle, ashwaganda, and green tea extract might even occupy space in your kitchen cupboard. But it is the synergism among these plants in their exact proportions that gives Protandim its potency. Take one out or change the proportion of another and we have a completely different product. If this sounds like a selling point, I refer you to the Synergism study on my website demonstrating their collective cogency.

As stated above, oxidative stress is associated with over 200 diseases. There are 27 institutions currently studying the supplement and its effects on various disease states. As a dietary supplement, claims of reducing disease risk are prohibited. However, I invite you to read the published research on Pubmed. Exciting things are happening.

A new era in antioxidant protection is upon us. It is one based on sound science, the credibility of Dr. McCord, and plant spices used safely for thousands of years in Eastern healing.

Move over, red wine.

Jump off a cliff, Diet Coke.

I’m ditching my Dixie Cup.

But I’m not giving up my dark chocolate.

Sean Croxton



9 thoughts on “The Antioxidant Myth

  1. Joe Bargo

    Hey, Sean I just wanted to share my appreciation with you and your blogging/videos. Although I lost weight myself, I never knew how damaging to my body the way I did it was. I went from 250-140 in about 6 months and it was solely on running and calorie restriction. I still drank tons of diet soda and lots of sugary products. It was horrible for my health. Since watching your videos and reading your posts I have stopped drinking soda and only drink water. I have a high protein/fat diet and I can’t tell you how much better I feel from not drinking that soda. It gave my chronic headaches, hypotension, and I was always cold! I would never sweat, and cramped up everywhere.

    Well I just wanted to show my appreciation. Don’t know how often you receive it. On the subject of protandim, it seams amazing and legit, but me being only 17 I doubt I need it, and its too pricey for me.

    Good luck with your site and videos.

  2. Mat Leclair

    Good stuff Sean. Makes me laugh when I see all of the commercials on TV and the boxes in Whole Foods promoting antioxidants claiming they’re the solution to all of our health problems. Actually I seem to laugh at almost all of the food commercials after listening to all of the UW podcasts.

    Funny how you mention that we stop producing the amount of antioxidant enzyme when we hit 20. Now that I think about it that’s when I started losing hair and feeling more tired in the evenings. Now I know what could be part of the culprit!

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  4. Tommy Gompert

    Thank you for for this great post. I’m always on the look out for content and was lucky to find you on Google I will surely be back againg to see what other great content you post.

  5. Joesph Mackey

    Interesting stuff! I went to Britain this summer and had some afternoon tea with scones , and it was so delicious I decided to try and make my own last weekend. I might have deviated from the norm though – I found a site full of random scone recipes here and made 3 different kinds! My friends were so happy when I invited them round for tea and scones. Lots of fun!

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