In the study, begun in 1988, a population of 1,200 healthy college students in fourteen U.S. colleges applied the antioxidant medicine as a topical cream nightly to their arms, chest, back and face. It was hypothesized that the antioxidant cream would reduce the incidence of new nevi and melanotic growths on the skin of participants, as compared to a matched population of 1,200 college students in twelve other colleges. However, CDC epidemiologists noted in March 1997 that, since the study's inception, 11 college students in the control group had committed suicide, whereas none of those in the study group had committed or even attempted suicide.
"These findings are quite dramatic, and we felt that it was necessary to break the match at this time to report our findings," says Dr. Pangloss of the Intentional Injuries research unit at CDC. Dr. Pangloss also noted that the antioxidant cream virtually eliminated acne problems among study participants, and seemed to have a salutary effect on their grade point averages and sexual potency as well. "[These] ancillary findings may be related to as yet unspecified mood-altering effects of the drug," says Pangloss.
The chemical structure of the antioxidant in the cream -- benzyl-oxy-gamma-u-stearate (bogus) -- has been known for years. In fact, the chemical is already marketed in the United States as an ingredient in a popular whipped dessert topping. In its hydroxygenated form, bogus has also proven to be an unusually durable yet inexpensive floor wax.
CDC researchers also noted that one shouldn't believe everything that one reads, even on the World Wide Web.
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