Shortcomings Cited in NewsWeek Antioxidants Story

January 31, 2011

The Council for Responsible Nutrition responds.

A negative report on antioxidants, published last week by the news agency NewsWeek, has prompted the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN; Washington, DC) to respond to what the agency says is an “isolated look” at existing antioxidant science.

Sharon Begley’s article, “Antioxidants Fall from Grace,”  criticizes the recent upsurge of antioxidant-fortified foods, referencing limited science showing a possible connection to antioxidant levels and ill health.

Begley’s report references two mice studies: one in which antioxidants “aggravated and possible triggered kidney cancer,” and another in which antioxidant levels may have increased the likelihood of atherosclerosis. Begley also points to a 2008 Cochrane Collaboration review of 67 studies in which vitamin E supplementation may have increased mortality rates.

But data from the 2008 Cochrane review was re-analyzed, with researchers determining no such mortality link, according to CRN.

“It's unfortunate that this article provided an isolated look at the body of science surrounding antioxidants,” said CRN vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs Duffy MacKay, ND. “For example, this article didn't take into account the entire body of scientific research, which included a number of studies that have shown that taking antioxidant supplements, including vitamins C and E, beta-carotene, zinc and selenium, consistently over the long-term, can play a role in reducing the risk of chronic disease.”

The organization added that the NewsWeek article relied exclusively on negative or null findings.

“Nutrition experts agree that a diet high in fruits and vegetables promotes health and reduces the risk of chronic disease,” said MacKay. “Yet the reality is that people simply aren’t incorporating enough fruits and vegetables in their diets-and therefore may be missing many of the crucial benefits antioxidants provide-and may benefit from taking antioxidant supplements.”