The notion that antioxidant supplements such as vitamins C and E could slow ageing has been dealt a blow by a scientific study showing that the theory behind the advice is wrong.

Beloved of health food shops and glossy magazines alike, antioxidants have long been peddled as preventative pills that have the ability to slow ageing and protect against diseases such as cancer. But the research has shown that the molecular mechanism proposed to explain how they work is mistaken.

David Gems, at University College London, who led the study, said: “It really demonstrates finally that trying to boost your antioxidant levels is very unlikely to have any effect on ageing.”

The dominant theory for ageing has been around since the 1950s; it blames glitches in cells caused by the damaging byproducts of our metabolism. As cells break down sugars to release energy, they also unleash reactive forms of oxygen such as superoxide. These supposedly cause the damage which is the hallmark of ageing.

Gems’ team set about testing the theory that raising or lowering the body’s natural defences against superoxide could affect an individual’s lifespan: make the defences stronger, and lifespan should increase; make them weaker, and it should decrease.

As it would be unethical to experiment on humans, his team used the nematode worm, Caenorhabditis elegans. By tweaking its genes, the scientists were able to “tune” the worms’ natural defences – enzymes it produces to tackle superoxide. However, this made no difference to the worms’ lifespan.

“You can drastically change the natural defence levels and there’s just no effect on ageing,” said Gems, who published his results yesterday in the journal Genes and Development. He added that molecular damage was probably caused by numerous different chemicals within the cell.”With increasing lifespan comes greater exposure and vulnerability to the ageing process,” said Alan Schafer, head of molecular and physiological sciences at the Wellcome Trust. “Research such as this points to how much we have to learn about ageing, and the importance of understanding the mechanisms behind this process. This new study will encourage researchers to explore new avenues in ageing research.”

Gems’s findings coincide with a recent US study on the effectiveness of antioxidants against cancer. The clinical trial on nearly 15,000 men tested whether vitamin C and E supplements were effective against the disease. After following the subjects for several years, researchers found no statistical difference in the number of cancers between the groups taking the vitamins and those on a placebo.

According to Vedic literatures ageing and death are inevitable. Everything created has to be destroyed that’s the law of nature. The scientist effort to remain eternal is nothing but a mirage ever elusive. As Bhagavad Gita 2.22 states

vāsāḿsi jīrṇāni yathā vihāya

navāni grÌ£hṇāti naro ‘parānÌ£i

tathā śarīrāṇi vihāya jīrṇāny

anyāni saḿyāti navāni dehī

As a person puts on new garments, giving up old ones, the soul
similarly accepts new material bodies, giving up the old and useless
ones.

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The worker who is always engaged in work against the injunctions of the scripture, who is materialistic, obstinate, cheating and expert in insulting others, and who is lazy, always morose and procrastinating is said to be a worker in the mode of ignorance.

by Gita 18.28

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