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in Sleeper now, where smoking, deep fat, steak, cream pies, and hot fudge are known to be healthy.

The Downside of Antioxidants
Not so fast. First, studies piled up showing that taking antioxidants—even such common and seemingly innocuous ones as beta carotene and vitamins C and E—as supplements was not beneficial to health and might even be dangerous, though the reason for the danger wasn’t clear. (One always pays attention when a study concludes with a phrase like “seems to increase overall mortality.”) Now the research is challenging an even more fundamental tenet of the antioxidant craze. Many of the free radicals that are neutralized by antioxidants perform valuable functions in the body. The most important: fighting toxins (white blood cells churn out free radicals by the battalion to fight bacterial infection) and fighting cancer. Maybe it’s not such a fabulous idea to flood the body with something that neutralizes these warriors of the immune system. Or as British chemist and science writer David Bradley noted in his blog, Reactive Reports, “It’s always struck me as odd that you would want to ingest extra antioxidants anyway, given that oxidising agents are at the front-line of immune defence against pathogens and cancer cells ... Suffice to say that taking antioxidant supplements ... may not necessarily be good for your health if you already have health problems,” especially cancer or an infection.

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