I was dashing out of the grocery store when something caught my eye: Right by the door, there was a tall display of soda bottles filled with something enticingly pink and a big word: “Antioxidant.”
Antioxidant? That’s a flavor now?
Actually, what I spotted was one of several flavors of Antioxidant 7UP – cherry, mixed berry or pomegranate, to be specific. It’s not in little print on the back of the bottle, either. It’s right on the front, in big letters.
I was so taken aback, I slowed down for a step or two. I was rushing through the store with my son, who was due back at college that afternoon.
Look at that, I pointed. Can you believe that?
He tilted his head and studied the bottles. Then he shrugged. “What’s an antioxidant?”
An antioxidant? Well, it’s…
Huh. You know, I finally admitted, I’m not sure. It has something to do with oxidants. And something to do with not getting them. Or not wanting them. Something anti.
At work the next day, I had to look it up.
The first definition had the helpful information that antioxidants prevent oxidation. Gee, thanks.
I found a little more help from the well-known Dr. Andrew Weil: Antioxidants are micronutrients that block chemical reactions caused by oxidation in our cells. “Just as oxygen can cause metals to rust and corrode, it can pull electrons from organic molecules, rendering them defective and useless.”
Since some of the cell damage might have something to do with age, that idea of rusting made more sense.
Even better, the Harvard School of Public Health website explained that antioxidants are part of the whole package of good stuff found in fruits, vegetables and whole grains that might help prevent diseases.
But you can’t just gulp down doses of antioxidants and do any good. We’ve been studying them for a couple of decades and we still aren’t sure if they prevent disease on their own or only when they’re combined with other things.
In my studying, I discovered something else important about antioxidants: The Center for Science in the Public Interest filed a lawsuit against the Dr. Pepper Snapple Group in early November, claiming that not only does 7UP Antioxidant violate federal regulations on health claims, it’s particularly misleading because it doesn’t contain any fruit or juice. The added antioxidant is a little Vitamin E.
Antioxidant 7UP does have some beneficial effects, though. It may have improved my eyesight – I spotted it before it disappears from the market. Dr. Pepper Snapple says it’s removing the product in 2013, although it says that has nothing to do with the lawsuit.
And it had the benefit of making me look up “antioxidant.”
But maybe I’m a little smarter, too. Because I already knew putting them in soft drinks won’t do any good at all.