Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"Are taking antioxidant supplements in large quanities good for my heart health?"
I recently started taking an antioxidant supplement upon recommendation from a news article I had read about their protective qualities. The most interesting part of the article was that antioxidants are supposedly related to helping protect against heart disease and heart attack. I am unsure what is contained within my supplements, but the bottle's label says it is helpful for protecting against age-related illnesses and diseases. Are taking antioxidants, especially in large quantities, helpful for keeping disease at bay and for protecting my heart or is this just a new fad that only provides minimal benefits, one that any diet or lifestyle change could also equally deliver?
I suggest that you discuss this with your primary care doctor. Despite what we know about the role of anti-oxidants and their benefits, taking them in large quantities is likely more harmful than helpful to our bodies. The theory behind the benefits of antioxidants is that they counter the negative effects of oxidative damage (the damage caused by the oxygen we breath and need). Oxidative damage does result in tissue damage, might be involved in aging, and is likely also involved in the development of heart disease. However, every time we try to counter oxidative damage by giving people anti-oxidants (in a clinical trial) they do worse than the people who don't get them. The reasons for this are complicated but they have to do with the role that oxidative molecules play in normal function. In other words oxidative damage is like Goldilocks's porridge: It can't be too much or too little, it has to be just right. Unfortunately, there is no way for us to know what is just right. Again, please discuss this with your primary care doctor. The two of you can review the supplements you are taking and decide if any of them are beneficial. A good diet and lots of exercise will go much further for your health.
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