Antioxidants are often associated with good health, but a new study from Kansas State University warns these nutrients could also cause harm. Researchers found that sometimes, antioxidants can impair muscle function.

How? Antioxidants basically slow or reverse the effects of oxides, thereby countering some of the effects of aging and disease. But according to the new study, some oxidants can be beneficial — like hydrogen peroxide, which can help increase blood flow and aid with muscle function.

Steven Copp, a doctoral student who worked on the study, says in a press release that “One of the things we’ve seen in our research is that you can’t just give a larger dose of antioxidants and presume that there will be some sort of beneficial effect. In fact, you can actually make a problem worse.”

So should you avoid antioxidants now? Not necessarily. This study brought up more questions than answers for me, since the experiments were conducted on rats that were given “acute intra-arterial antioxidant supplementation.” As we already know, taking antioxidant supplements — which have already been linked to an increased risk of death — is quite different from, say, eating blueberries and drinking açai juice.

Certainly, more research studying the effects of antioxidants of the body’s welcome, and perhaps this study will encourage people to think twice before popping pills promising antioxidant benefits. But I wouldn’t panic over pomegranates just yet.

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