Rosiris Sindeaux de Alencar Pires de Oliveira, Bayardo Baptista Torres


INTRODUCTION: Misconceptions or alternative conceptions are defined as conceptions that are somewhat different from the scientifically accepted ones and are known to be highly resistant to changes. Free radicals are a widely publicized subject in the media due to their putative importance in human aging and health. Free radicals are a subject susceptible to misconceptions widely spread by the media supporting prejudicial advertising inducing antioxidant consumption. OBJECTIVES: Identify and categorized different free radicals misconceptions published in printed media. MATERIALS AND METHODS: Revista Veja (Digital Archive), the weekly magazine with the largest circulation in Brazil, was selected for this investigation. Period analyzed: from 01/01/2000 to 31/07/2014 with search terms Free radicals and antioxidants. Passages selected were classified as: Right Concept (RC), Wrong Concept (WC), Misconception (MC), Inadequate generalization (IG), Inductive [to misconceptions] Concept (IC), Inductive [to misconceptions] Information (II), and Not fit the inclusion criteria (NFIC). Each one of these categories were further subdivided. DISCUSSION AND RESULTS: 79 magazine articles, advertisements and information materials were found which led to 293 text passages. 56.3% were MC, 21.4% II, 8.8% IC, 5.4% IG, 3.4% RC, 2.7% WR, 2.0% NFIC. The most frequently subcategory in each category was: MC: x [something] combats free radicals (22.6%); II: x [substance] is antioxidant (54.0%); IC: x [something] increases free radicals production (34.6%); IG: antioxidant x [substance] combats cancer (56.3%); RC: too much vitamins and minerals is harmful to health (30.0%); WR: free radicals are formed during oxygen conversion to energy process (25.0%). CONCLUSION: Magazine analysis reveal non-scientific concepts (MC, II, IC and IG) to be highly frequent, notably misconceptions. Moreover, non-scientific concepts together reach 91.8% of all concepts while right concepts respond for only 2.7%. Scientists and specialists must be concerned about this large amount of free radicals misconceptions presented by printed media and the consequences of their dissemination.


misconceptions; free radicals; antioxidants

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.16923/reb.v14i2.671


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