Expert talks myths & benefits of antioxidants

Nebraska consumers hear plenty about the health benefits of products that contain antioxidants, but can they really do everything? An expert spoke recently at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha about the myths and realities.

Dr. Jeffrey Blumberg is senior scientist and director of the Antioxidants Research Laboratory at Tufts University in Boston. He says consumers need to beware of some commercial claims about antioxidant products. Dr. Blumberg says: “Lots of products like to talk about themselves as having more antioxidants, or more powerful antioxidants. No one food contains all of the antioxidants that we need.”

Antioxidants include vitamins C, E and beta carotene. They’re touted for their possible role in slowing the aging process and fighting heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Blumberg says a multivitamin is the most common way people can get antioxidant supplements. He says, “Every multivitamin that many people take has the recommended dietary allowance of vitamin C and vitamin E in it. It usually has a little bit of beta carotene as well.”

Blumberg says there needs to be more research about how antioxidants can improve health. He says, “What research is trying to understand now is which of these antioxidants, in what combinations, at what doses, and in what individuals are going to provide the greatest benefit.”

He says it’s clear that there are health benefits from taking antioxidants: “The evidence is very strong that dietary antioxidants can promote health and reduce our risk for chronic disease.”

Blumberg is recognized for research on the effects of antioxidants and flavonoids, which are in things like green tea, almonds, cranberries, blueberries, broccoli, and dark chocolate. Studies have shown that when people eat a lot of fruits and vegetables, they lower their risk of developing cardiovascular disease and stroke.