The recent conclusion by the EU that the health claims related to antioxidants by many manufacturers are not sustainable after reviewing the scientific evidence accumulated on this subject during the last few years is going to send this highly profitable industry into a tail spin. Probably the initiative from the EU may see reversal of the current perception that all antioxidants help in preventing many diseases including cancer. The industry which has been peddling these products may be vulnerable to class action suits by the consumers if their intention was found to make money and not consumer welfare.
Antioxidants are big business – the word is not only a scientific term but also a marketing tool. According to Euromonitor International, the overall market for antioxidants was valued at a whopping $12bn (€8.8bn) last year. So the recent announcement by the Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies (NDA) at the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) that antioxidants don't work is not what this multi-billion dollar industry wanted to hear. OK, so EFSA didn't say "antioxidants don't work." But they reached the opinion that a range of antioxidant foods and constituents (relating to about 170 dossiers) do not deliver "antioxidant properties" or protect body cells and molecules such as DNA, proteins and lipids from oxidative damage.The opinion went on to state that: "…no evidence has been provided to establish that having antioxidant activity/content and/or antioxidant properties is a beneficial physiological effect."
Many so called studies, carried out in laboratory animals, cannot be translated to the human system as the digestive tract poses severe logistical problems for many substances and active chemical entities to enter the circulatory system and then to the cell sites to exercise the expected beneficial action. This is where pharmaceutical industry can score over food industry in designing and manufacturing health boosting foods as they have the resources and the facilities to carry out needed scientific studies.