I think it’s safe to say that in recent years the push to “Become Healthier” has become much stronger than it was previously. Statistics like 1/4 of New Zealand adults are obese and New Zealand being the “3rd Fattest” country in the world are used to promote a lifestyle that is aimed at making us healthier. Many of us have taken this message to heart (pun intended) and attempted to shape up but sometimes it’s not clear exactly what is healthy. The primary action people are urged to take is exercise and it’s a good one. There are many recognised benefits to regular exercise including reducing risk of Type II diabetes and possibly even reversing the condition.

Another item that is also touted as a general health promoter is antioxidants. Here’s where things start to get tricky, in order to reap the benefits of excersise there has to be some way that the fact that you are exerting yourself is communicated to the cells of your body. A promising candidate for this signal is ROS, or Reactive Oxygen Species. In other words – Oxidants. This brings up an interesting question, if you are taking antioxidants and exercising in your attempt to be healthy – what happens? A study released early this year suggests that the antioxidants reduce the beneficial effects of excersise in the body.

Researchers looked at two markers of insulin sensitivity: Glucose infusion rates and plasma adiponectin levels (high Glucose infusion rate and high adiponectin levels correlates with high insulin sensitivity = no diabetes for you). They found that taking two antioxidants (Vitamins C and E) while engaging in exercise (not literally, friends don’t let friends jog and pill-pop) actually reduced the before and after exercise difference in these markers. This result strengthens the evidence that ROS are involved in signalling changes in cells and that taking antioxidants interferes with this process.

The drawback of this study is that the participant numbers were quite small. The intial group was made up of forty men, 20 that had athletic backgrounds and 20 that didn’t. These where then split into two goups either recieving supplements or not. So the end was 4 groups of ten, not exactly a significant cross-section of the population. Even so the results are compelling and should be investigated further.

I think the moral still holds, beware of taking too many suplements, you don’t always know what the side effects will be.