Antioxidants prevent health-promoting effects of physical exercise in humans

Posted on 24 October 2019

Antioxidant supplements are widely regarded as an effective dietary tool in preventing cellular damage. However, research shows that in active subjects, they can actually have a detrimental effect on health.

A study observing the effect of antioxidants on the health benefits of exercise found that exercise increases insulin sensitivity, but only in the absence of supplementary antioxidants in individuals.

Pathway of exercise-induced reduction of disease risk, inhibited by antioxidant supplementation

This was paralleled by increased expression of reactive oxygen species (ROS)-sensitive transcriptional regulators of insulin sensitivity and increased ROS defence capacity, again, only in the absence of antioxidants.

This data highlights that exercise-induced oxidative stress reduces insulin resistance and causes an adaptive response promoting the bodies own antioxidant defence capacity, and that supplementation with antioxidants may preclude these health-promoting effects of exercise in humans.


  1. Ristow, Michael et al. Antioxidants prevent health-promoting effects of physical exercise in humans. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America vol. 106,21 (2009): 8665-70. doi:10.1073/pnas.0903485106
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