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Can your health be assessed by measuring antioxidant levels on the skin?

On the 16th February 2011 the Daily Mail featured an article with the headline: “Revealed: ‘Star Trek’ scanner that can measure damage to your body from smoking and junk food”.
The story described a new handheld medical device which “measure(s) levels of health-boosting antioxidants in the skin, …(which) are credited with many benefits, from slowing the ageing process to cutting the risk of ailments including heart disease and Alzheimer’s.”
It is claimed that the device “gauges the damage that bad habits such as smoking or a fondness for junk food are having on the body”.  There is no mention of published evidence of the device’s efficacy.

Stuart Jones, Clinical Scientist and member of the Voice of Young Science network told us:
“From the information given in the article we don’t know what they’re measuring - ‘antioxidant’ can refer to a huge range of different compounds - and we cannot tell whether the accuracy of the measurements has been tested.  Skin measurements of this nature are notoriously unreliable. Even established tests in routine use have to be verified with blood tests before treatment is instigated.
It is not clear that the level of antioxidants measured on the skin would be a reliable indicator of levels in the body.
They appear to be suggesting that you can use this device to assess a person’s diet but this is a huge leap and, in any case, evidence suggests that antioxidants are not a ‘magic bullet’ health solution!”

Author: Sense About Science

Document type: For The Record

Published: 16 February 2011


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