After the Hype is Gone

Oct 29, 2003

By George Anderson

A report in the Los Angeles Times covers the fall of antioxidant supplements from the next big thing in medical breakthroughs to the poster child for quackery in some
scientific circles.

According to the article’s writer, Elena Conis, antioxidant supplements were a victim of initial promising health studies that did not hold up under greater scrutiny. “In recent
years, ” she writes, “several larger research studies have found that people who took antioxidant supplements received no greater protection from chronic diseases than those who
didn’t. The scientific community remains split on the potential for antioxidant supplements. But one thing is clear: They no longer are considered the miracle cure they once were.

A report released in June by scientists at the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force and the Cleveland Clinic concluded that there was insufficient evidence to show antioxidant
supplement use provided people taking them with any health benefit.

The question, say experts, is not whether antioxidants have value in keeping people healthy but whether those singled-out for use in a supplement provide a benefit. “What we’re
looking at is the importance of a healthful diet,” said Melanie Polk, director of nutrition education at the American Institute of Cancer Research in Washington. “We’re not just
eating nutrients independently in food. We don’t just eat folic acid, vitamin E or selenium, but a whole arsenal of nutrients” at once, she said. “Green beans, broccoli [and]
cauliflower may all contain cancer-protective substances. But broccoli alone is not going to do it.”

Moderator’s Comment: Are retailers hurt, in terms of consumer trust, when products that have been hyped such as antioxidants do not prove to be the wonder
cure they are initially heralded to be? Should retailers ride every product bandwagon that is moving along for as long as they can?

The good news for retailers selling anti-oxidants is that consumers either haven’t gotten the bad news about antioxidant supplements or have dismissed it.
The LA Times piece reports, “About one-third of Americans take antioxidants, according to national statistics, and sales of these supplements are rising. Food companies continue
to cash in on the antioxidant craze with an array of products, from pomegranate juice to blueberry tea to supplement-spiked fruit smoothies.”
Anderson – Moderator

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