Antioxidants protect the body
from damage caused by harmful molecules called
free radicals. Many experts believe this damage is a
factor in the development of blood vessel disease (atherosclerosis), cancer, and other conditions.
You are exposed to free radicals:
Antioxidants include some vitamins (such as vitamins C and
E), some minerals (such as selenium), and flavonoids, which are found in
plants. The best sources of antioxidants are fruits and vegetables. You can
find flavonoids in fruits, red wine, and teas. You can also buy antioxidant
One study showed that using vitamin A, E, and beta
carotene supplements may increase your risk of premature death.1 Further study is needed to look at the effects of these
antioxidants as well as vitamin C and selenium. It is best to obtain
antioxidants from a healthy diet.
antioxidants to help treat or prevent some medical conditions, such as
coronary artery disease (CAD), some cancers,
Alzheimer's disease, and some arthritis-related
The treatment of CAD with antioxidant supplements as
well as with traditional medicine continues to be researched. Some experts
believe antioxidant vitamins may help in treating CAD, although so far studies
have not proved this.
Until more studies are done,
it is best to get your antioxidants from a diet rich in fruits and vegetables
rather than from supplements. Taking supplements in high doses can be harmful.
No single antioxidant alone can protect the body. Most people should eat 5 to 9
servings of fruits and vegetables each day.
The U.S. Food and Drug
Administration (FDA) does not regulate dietary supplements in the same way it
regulates medicines. A dietary supplement can be sold with limited or no
research on how well it works.
Always tell your doctor if you are
using a dietary supplement or if you are thinking about combining a dietary
supplement with your conventional medical treatment. It may not be safe to
forgo your conventional medical treatment and rely only on a dietary
supplement. This is especially important for women who are pregnant or
When using dietary supplements, keep in mind the
Bjelakovic G, et al. (2007). Mortality in randomized trials of antioxidant supplements for primary and secondary prevention: Systematic review and meta-analysis. JAMA, 297(8): 842–857.
Other Works Consulted
Murray MT (2013). Flavonoids: Quercetin, citrus flavonoids, and hydroxyethylrutosides. In JE Pizzorno, MT Murray, eds., Textbook of Natural Medicine, 4th ed., pp. 772–779. St. Louis: Elsevier.
Ronzio RA (2013). Naturally occurring antioxidants. In JE Pizzorno, MT Murray, eds., Textbook of Natural Medicine, 4th ed., pp. 891–914. St. Louis: Elsevier.
June 29, 2011
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
& Marc S. Micozzi, MD, PhD - Complementary and Alternative Medicine
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