Too Much Antioxidant Supplementation Might Be Having The Opposite Desired Effect

The products of oxidation are necessary for the function of our mitochondria in appropriate amounts – it is only when there is an excess that they cause damage through oxidative stress. Findings from a new study in the Journal of Cell Aging suggests that too much usage of commonly used antioxidant supplements, such a N-acetyl cysteine (aka “NAC”), might be having the opposite desired effect on our metabolism. The findings of the study observed an inverted ‘U’-shaped distribution curve with respect to oxidation when Caenorhabditis elegans mutants we subjected to different levels of antioxidant supplementation, both lengthening and shortening life span. Although not a human study, such findings pave the way for comparative human-subject research. Watch this space.


Biorna is just about to launch its Complete Metabolic Energy Profile, which gives for the tools to better understand the efficiency of your citric acid cycle/Krebs cycle, the health of your mitochondria, and several important related nutritional factors for understanding your body’s energy production. Use this test to determine if your system contains sufficient NAC (and perhaps now watch out for too much also).


Desjardins et al. (2017). Antioxidants reveal an inverted U‐shaped dose‐response relationship between reactive oxygen species levels and the rate of aging in Caenorhabditis elegans, Aging Cell, 16(1): 104–112.


Reactive oxygen species (ROS) are potentially toxic, but they are also signaling molecules that modulate aging. Recent observations that ROS can promote longevity have to be reconciled with the numerous claims about the benefits of antioxidants on lifespan. Here, three antioxidants [N‐acetylcysteine (NAC), vitamin C, and resveratrol (RSV)] were tested on Caenorhabditis elegans mutants that alter drug uptake, mitochondrial function, and ROS metabolism. We observed that like pro‐oxidants, antioxidants can both lengthen and shorten lifespan, dependent on concentration, genotypes, and conditions. The effects of antioxidants thus reveal an inverted U‐shaped dose–response relationship between ROS levels and lifespan. In addition, we observed that RSV can act additively to both NAC and paraquat, to dramatically increase lifespan. This suggests that the effect of compounds that modulate ROS levels can be additive when their loci of action or mechanisms of action are sufficiently distinct.

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