A young Montreal with immense perseverance won the biggest prize at a science fair in Canada, for an experiment he started at age 12 with flies in his bathroom.
“We are constantly being told that antioxidants are good for our health, and we all take this advice without much thought, but should we really be prioritizing foods rich in antioxidants?”, wondered four years ago Hua Allison Ango, who is now 16 years old.
Forced to drink goji berry soup on the pretext that it has a good supply of antioxidants, the teenager did not go on to convince her mother to forget the traditional recipe she doesn’t like.
After some research, she quickly found that there was no real evidence for their benefits. So she wanted to address the problem, using flies as a model. Their experiment was to compare the effects of a diet rich in antioxidants with that of a normal diet on different groups of flies that were either under great stress or in a relaxed environment.
“Fly That Can”
At the age of 12, the young researcher set up a fly laboratory in his bathroom to begin the “Mauche Qi Pet” experiment.
“After a while the walls started to crumble so I had to stop and move on from my experience,” she laughs. I contacted many labs and many refused me because I was 12 years old. “
Seeing her persistence and the seriousness of her project, one of McGill’s professors agreed to take her under him. Four years later, the young woman won the coveted platinum prize at the Canada-wide Science Fair last month: an award that Quebec hadn’t won since 2014.
Alison tells all kids who want to get started on a project, “Sometimes it’s tempting to give up because it’s a lot of work, but it’s so important to keep going.”
So, should we include antioxidants in our daily intake?
“Celebrities present them as a cure for all kinds of reasons, like age, beauty, intelligence. But in my experience with flies, it’s not as effective as some people think,” she says. According to researchers, antioxidants may protect flies from severe stress, but otherwise do not have a major effect.
But despite all her efforts and her trophy, the teenager still has to keep on swallowing the famous goji soup.
“My mom still wants me to drink it for the tradition, even though it’s no longer for the antioxidants and benefits,” she laughs.