Intervention Studies

S Stanner, British Nutrition Foundation, London, UK

© 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

A predominantly plant-based diet reduces the risk of developing several chronic diseases, including cancer and cardiovascular disease (CVD) coronary heart disease and stroke. It is often assumed that antioxidants, including vitamin C, vitamin E, the carotenoids (e.g., ^-carotene, lycopene, and lutein), selenium, and the flavonoids (e.g., quercetin, kaempferol, myricetin, luteolin, and apigenin), contribute to this protection by interfering passively with oxidative damage to DNA, lipids, and proteins. This hypothesis is supported by numerous in vitro studies in animals and humans. A large number of descriptive, case-control, and cohort studies have also demonstrated an inverse association between high intakes and/or plasma levels of antioxidants and risk of CVD and cancer at numerous sites, as well as other conditions associated with oxidative damage, such as age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

These findings provided a strong incentive for the initiation of intervention studies to investigate whether a lack of dietary antioxidants is causally related to chronic disease risk and if providing antioxidant supplements confers benefits for the prevention and treatment of these conditions. This article summarizes the findings of the largest primary and secondary trials published to date and considers their implications for future research and current dietary advice.

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