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Are Berries the New Snake Oil?

I have nothing against berries. I, in fact, enjoy many kinds of berries in my diet. My favorite fruit, the banana, is actually a berry (botanically speaking). I am disturbed, however, at the extent to which various kinds of berries are being sold as the latest superfood cure-all.

Dr. Oz, for example, has been pushing the lingonberry (a relative of the cranberry and blueberry) as “a new superfruit for longevity.” An attached article on his site states:

“Today, scientists are showing its value in both human and animal studies that are proving to have positive results.”

Curiously, there are no links or references to these studies.

Polyphenols and Antioxidants

We are still in the midst of the “antioxidant craze” – if you read the justification for just about any so-called “superfood” or longevity supplement you are sure to read about antioxidants. I have already covered antioxidants, but briefly: Cell metabolism in part creates oxygen free radicals which are molecules that steal electrons from other molecules, causing a cascade of reactions that can damage proteins and other chemicals in the body. Anti-oxidants are chemicals that can stop free radicals and limit the damage. They therefore decrease “oxidative stress” on cells. So far it sounds like anti-oxidants are therefore a good thing and we should be gobbling up as much as we can. However – free radicals and anti-oxidants exist in cells in a homeostasis. Free radicals are used by the immune system, for example, to fight invading organisms. They are also important signaling molecules, triggering other cell-protective mechanisms.

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Posted in: Herbs & Supplements

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