The news on antioxidant benefits: old news, none found

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Antioxidants, and eating a diet filled with antioxidant-rich foods, have often been touted as contributing to disease protection including warding off dementia. A new study, however, has shed some light on the science: older adults who eat diets high in antioxidants had the same risk of dementia or stroke as the comparison group who consumed the lowest amount of the substances.

A team of researchers led by Elizabeth Devore, epidemiologist at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women s Hospital in Boston, found that people who ate or drank coffee, tea, oranges and red wine were just as likely to develop neurological problems as their counterparts who skipped out on those antioxidant-rich foods.

The study included 5,395 people aged 55 years and older. These study subjects filled out questionnaires detailing their consumption of 170 foods; participants marked off how often they ate each food over the course of a year. They were then tracked over 14 years, during which 599 of them were diagnosed with dementia (including 484 with Alzheimer s disease) and 601 had a first stroke. That pattern held after their ages, overall food consumption and smoking status were taken into account, according to the findings published in Neurology.

Furthermore, there was also no reported link between total dietary antioxidants and white or gray matter volume in the brain.

The authors did however note that there is some scientific evidence that specific vitamins vitamin C, E, selenium, and flavonoids do have a protective effect in the brain. "There have been a number of studies that have shown that higher intake of dietary vitamin E is associated with lower risk of dementia," Devore told Reuters Health. The same goes for vitamin C and stroke risk. That suggests people should continue eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, including berries, she added.

These current data indicate that while a diet high in fruits and vegetables is healthful, it is not necessarily because of their antioxidant content says ACSH s Dr. Ruth Kava. It s not at all clear that the science behind the antioxidant benefits that Dr. Devore cites is firmly established, she added.