As I was cleaning out my inbox, I stumbled upon yet another summary newsletter extolling the virtues of total antioxidant capacity in preventing heart disease in women as published this month in the American Journal of Medicine . It turns out the authors followed 32,561 Swedish women for 10 years after assessing total antioxidant capacity by food frequency questionnaire just once at baseline. After a decade, they then determined the number who had suffered a heart attack and compared their total antioxidant capacity to those who had not suffered an event.
Lo and behold, those who had the highest total antioxidant capacity had the lowest risk of heart attacks, approximately 20% lower than those with the lowest value. Interesting, servings of fruits & vegetables didn't make a difference. But be very careful of extrapolating the results of this study and jumping to the incorrect conclusion that taking a high antioxidant supplement will give you the same effect. Unfortunately, we have no data suggesting this advertising leap of faith.
Bottom line, it's still better to eat your way to good health rather than attempt to achieve the same by popping some pills. Oh, and what to make of the lack of benefit from serving numbers? Remember that we need to focus on quality, not just quantity. So don't just pick french fries & potato chips as your vegetables but rather include a variety of brightly colored & darkly colored fruits & vegetables in your daily diet. As an aside, the study also included coffe as another source of antioxdiants! OK, one last point. Total antioxidant capacity is often measured (and advertised) as ORAC or oxygen radical absorbance capacity. So be careful when reading labels.