A review of the epidemiological evidence for the 'antioxidant hypothesis'

Public Health Nutrition
S A StannerJ Buttriss

Abstract

The British Nutrition Foundation was recently commissioned by the Food Standards Agency to conduct a review of the government's research programme on Antioxidants in Food. Part of this work involved an independent review of the scientific literature on the role of antioxidants in chronic disease prevention, which is presented in this paper. There is consistent evidence that diets rich in fruit and vegetables and other plant foods are associated with moderately lower overall mortality rates and lower death rates from cardiovascular disease and some types of cancer. The 'antioxidant hypothesis' proposes that vitamin C, vitamin E, carotenoids and other antioxidant nutrients afford protection against chronic diseases by decreasing oxidative damage. Although scientific rationale and observational studies have been convincing, randomised primary and secondary intervention trials have failed to show any consistent benefit from the use of antioxidant supplements on cardiovascular disease or cancer risk, with some trials even suggesting possible harm in certain subgroups. These trials have usually involved the administration of single antioxidant nutrients given at relatively high doses. The results of trials investigating the effect of...Continue Reading

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