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Sensationalist Journalism and Fear of Blueberries

by on October 25, 2015

scary-blueberriesI really think the media need to stop using shock journalism when it comes to nutritional science. This article from The Washington Post is sensationalism at its peak, and serves only to confuse the general public.

Look at the cover, someone holding a handful of beautiful blueberries, and the caption under the berries says that blueberries have the highest antioxidant content. But the title says the results on antioxidants can be TERRIFYING. For the love of God and all that is holy, this is the most sensationalist headline, and erroneous headline, I have ever read.

First off, antioxidants serve to PREVENT cancer. We are constantly exposed to substances called “free radicals” that can attack our DNA and initiate a cancer. Antioxidants serve to scavenge the free radicals. This study did not look at cancer prevention, but rather the response to actual cancer cells.

Secondly, this was a mouse study, and an isolated study at that. One study does not damn anything, especially when it is on mice. Part of the study was in vitro, meaning they were looking at cancer cells outside of the body. A human body is far different than a rat and especially different than an isolated cell.

Third, for the antioxidant they did not use blueberries!!!!! They used N acetyl cysteine, an antioxidant which is NOT found in actual food! The N acetyl cysteine was used as an isolated chemical, rather than part of a whole food. What they found is that it made cancer grows. I do not know the dosing parameters but, as is common in mouse studies, I imagine the dose is very high. Just because the cell number was high we cannot infer that the cancer laden mice would die quicker or get more mets, they didn’t study that.

There have been several studies that have shown that vitamins given in their isolated form are not good for cancer. Our synthetic vitamins just do not work like the combination of natural vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients, which come packaged in a perfect bundle in nature’s foods. There have been many studies showing fruits and vegetables are protective against cancer and do NOT cause spread of cancer. These studies actually being done in living, breathing humans.

So, I don’t think this study really tells us anything. It would need a lot more testing to be remotely relevant. If there is anything that comes from the article, don’t take supplements sold as antioxidants but rather just eat the damn blueberries.