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08 October 2012
Antioxidants come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. There are the polyphenols found in grapes, the lycopene found in tomatoes, the vitamin C in capsicum, or the vitamin E in asparagus. All different chemically but similar in that they stop oxidation happening and so they get all get to attend the end of year “Antioxidant Gala Ball”. Each of these antioxidants and many others besides have been extensively studied for their beneficial effects in the human body. One of common findings for antioxidants is that they protect the heart and now a new study has sought establish not just how individual antioxidants relate to heart attack risk but how your total antioxidant rating impacts your heart health.
The researchers, from the Karolinska Institute, claim that this is the first time that intake of all antioxidants has been taken into account. The study followed 32,561 women aged between 49 and 83 for ten years between 1997 and 2007. All subjects filled out a food questionnaire. From this the researchers calculated the total antioxidant capacity of their diet. They did this by using the ORAC score (oxygen radical absorption capacity) for each food to come up with a total ORAC score for each person’s diet. The results were the correlated with the incidence of heart attack during the ten years of the study.
In that time 1,114 women experienced a heart attack. It was found that the women with the highest ORAC score were 20 per cent less likely than women with the lowest ORAC diet score to experience a heart attack. Those with the highest ORAC score also consumed about seven servings of fruit and vegetables per day compared to only an average of 2.4 servings in the low-ORAC group.
Given what we already know about antioxidants (that they protect blood vessels and stop damage to cholesterol for a start) it is highly likely that the antioxidants are playing a heart protective role. It might also be other elements of fruit and vegetables (like fibre) or the lifestyle and attitude that accompanies their consumption that are good for the heart.
However you slice them though, eating antioxidant fruits and vegetables is a good thing for your heart.