The canny world of advertising has caught on to the free radical theory of aging, marketing a whole array of antioxidants for preventing anything from wrinkles to dry hair to reducing the risk of heart disease — promising to help slow the hands of time.
Nevertheless, numerous studies of people taking antioxidant pills have failed to show a benefit, and the supplements may even be harmful. A study earlier this year hinted that high doses of the antioxidant vitamin E may raise the risk of heart disease, while earlier research has found that beta carotene, another popular antioxidant, puts smokers at higher risk of lung cancer. But that doesn’t mean the free radical theory of aging is wrong, “We think that it is fundamental to the understanding and the implications of aging,” says University of Washington pathologist, Peter Rabinovitch.
Working with genetically engineered mice — to produce a natural antioxidant enzyme called catalase — Rabinovitch’s group found that, on average, the mice live longer. But don’t go running to the medicine cabinet for your bottle of Vitamin C or other antioxidant supplement, only naturally-occurring antioxidants seem to offer a dip in the fountain of youth, and so far, only in mice.
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