Antioxidant controversy: Scientists seek measurement standards

An international gathering of researchers from 19 countries has agreed for the first time to establish uniform measurement standards for antioxidants. The decision could ultimately produce more reliable data for consumers, who face misleading claims about the amount and effect of these disease-fighting compounds in their food, health and beauty products, the researchers say.

The historic three-day meeting, the First International Congress on Antioxidant Methods, was held June 16-18 in Orlando, Fla. The 144 scientists and experts from industry, academia and government who attended the meeting discussed the latest claims in antioxidant research and identified methods used to make these claims. The principal sponsor of the meeting was the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society.

The result: Widespread agreement that antioxidant measurements need to be standardized but disagreement on the best method to measure the beneficial compounds, which are thought to reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease as well as fight aging, arthritis and Alzheimer's disease.

"Right now, it's difficult to compare the antioxidant content of a can of blueberries to a fruit smoothie," said John W. Finley, Ph.D., chair of the meeting organizing committee and an associate editor of the ACS Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. "There's no uniformity in the way antioxidants are evaluated. You don't know what you're getting, and that's not fair to consumers."

One of the most heated issues at the meeting concerned the identification of the most reliable values for antioxidant measurements. Finley estimates that there are currently between 25 and 100 different methods used to measure antioxidants. "A little difference in methodology can make a huge difference in results," cautioned Finley. "We need to identify the four or five best methods and make them consistent."

"As a result of intense debate, we made progress t

Contact: Michael Bernstein
American Chemical Society

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