The Scam of Skin Antioxidant Testing
A while back, a friend of mine asked me about this product:
It's a biophotonic scanner made by a company called Pharmanex. This product measures carotenoid levels in the skin. Carotenoids are antioxidants found in many fruits and vegetables. Beta-carotene is one carotenoid that you may be familiar with. Other carotenoids include lutein and lycopene, to name just a few. Many scientists believe that carotenoids may be partly responsible for the observed associations between increased fruit and vegetable intake and lower risk of many diseases.
The company claims that this scanner can give you an "accurate and reliable biomarker of your overall antioxidant health status". They further state that, "Getting your Skin Carotenoid Score makes you aware of the antioxidant levels in your body-and gives you the push you need to improve your overall antioxidant health." To appear scientific, their website is complete with a scientific advisory board, a list of scientists, and even a list of studies that they claim supports their product.
Well, it's B.S.
OK, it's not complete B.S. The product does do what it claims to do....it measures carotenoid levels in the skin using a technique called Raman Spectroscopy.
While that's fine and dandy, what is B.S. is their claim that it is a reliable biomarker of your overall antioxidant status. There is simply no evidence that carotenoid skin levels reflect the overall antioxidant status of your body.
Carotenoid skin levels do correlate with fruit and vegetable intake, so the test can tell you if you eat a lot of fruits and vegetables. But do you need an expensive scanner to tell you if you're eating a lot of fruits and vegetables?
And what do you think the company recommends you do if you have a low skin carotenoid score? Buy their antioxidant supplements, of course.
This isn't the first time Pharmanex has spread outlandish claims. In 1997, they were fined by the Federal Trade Commission over claims they made about two supplements they sold.
The fact is that this scanner is nothing more than a fancy way to take your money and to get you to buy things that you don't need. There is no evidence that skin carotenoid status is a reflection of overall antioxidant status. You do not need an expensive test to know if you're consuming a lot fruits and vegetables. Also, there is little scientific evidence that supplemental antioxidants have any health benefits. In fact, too many antioxidants can have a pro-oxidant effect, and may also reduce your own body's antioxidant defense systems. We are a bit too antioxidant crazy in our society....a topic that I will get to in another blog post.