A recent study suggests that maintaining a diet high in antioxidants may reduce the risk for heart failure.
Antioxidants are molecules that work to prevent damage that occurs in cells and body tissues due to both normal bodily processes and exposure to some chemicals. The potential medical benefit of antioxidants may reside in their ability to prevent or slow the oxidation of molecules in the microscopic parts of the body, such as DNA or proteins.
Early research on antioxidants investigated their possible use in preventing edible fats from becoming rancid due to oxidation. Vitamins A, C and E were some of the first antioxidants identified by medical science as possibly beneficial to human health. In addition to being available in a variety of fruits and vegetables, antioxidants are available as supplements. They are one of the most popular categories of supplements available today. Antioxidants are proposed to play a role in preventing many common health disorders, such as Alzheimer's disease, heart disease and some types of cancers.
In a new study, researchers evaluated data on 33,713 women from the Swedish Mammography Corhort. Total antioxidant capacity estimates were collected through questionnaires. Heart failure data was then collected through 2009 from health registries.
Eight-hundred and ninety-four cases of heart failure were identified throughout the 11.3 year follow-up period. The researchers found that women who reported diets with the highest total antioxidant capacity had a 42 percent reduced risk of heart failure when compared to those with the lowest total antioxidant capacity.
The authors concluded that these findings support the view that maintaining a diet rich in antioxidants may lower the risk for heart failure. While promising, further research is warranted.
Antioxidants are found in varying amounts in foods such as vegetables, fruits, grain cereals, legumes and nuts. Some antioxidants such as lycopene and ascorbic acid can be destroyed by long-term storage or prolonged cooking. Other antioxidant compounds are more stable, such as the polyphenolic antioxidants in foods such as whole-wheat cereals and tea. In general, processed foods are thought to contain less antioxidants than fresh and uncooked foods since preparation processes may expose the food to oxygen.
Susanne Rautiainen, PhD, Emily B. Levitan, ScD, Murray A. Mittleman, MD, PhD, Alicja Wolk, DrMedSci. "Total Antioxidant Capacity of Diet and Risk of Heart Failure: A Population-based Prospective Cohort of Women". American Journal of Medicine. 2013 April 03.