Antioxidant nutrients: current dietary recommendations and research update


OBJECTIVE:                                                      Antioxidant

To review the importance of antioxidant nutrients in the maintenance of health and the prevention and treatment of disease, with a focus on data pertaining to vitamin C, vitamin E, selenium, and carotenoids. A secondary objective was to discuss the new Dietary Reference Intakes released by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) for these nutrients.


Grafic of the nutrient cycle in the marine realm

Grafic of the nutrient cycle in the marine realm (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

IOM reports on the use of antioxidant vitamins were reviewed for nutrient recommendations. In addition, a MEDLINE search was performed to identify recent research and review articles on the topic, which were analyzed to identify key research findings in the area.


The review discusses the biologic processes of oxidation reactions and antioxidants in biologic systems, provides an overview of information on selected antioxidant nutrients, and explores their role in the prevention and treatment of cancer, cardiovascular disease, ocular disorders, and respiratory disorders.


There appear to be significant health benefits from dietary antioxidants, as can be found in fruits and vegetables. Some prospective assessment of the effect of supplemental antioxidants also suggests benefit, especially for vitamin E; however, there are conflicting results in this area. Overall, it appears that antioxidant nutrients, especially those from food sources, have important roles in preventing pathogenic processes related to cancer, cardiovascular disease, macular degeneration, cataracts, and asthma, and may enhance immune function.

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