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Proc Nutr Soc. 2008 May;67(2):214-22. doi: 10.1017/S0029665108007052.

Antioxidants and CVD.

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Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University College London, Gower Street, London WC1E 6BT, UK.


The involvement of free radicals and reactive oxygen and nitrogen species in the pathology of inflammatory and degenerative disease has been widely accepted, although the centrality of these species to the outcome of these diseases is still a matter for debate. In the case of CVD, and particularly the development of the atherosclerotic plaque, the oxidation of LDL is of particular importance and appears to explain many of the events that occur during the life history of the plaque. The corollary of this situation is that antioxidants must be a benign force to protect the population from the modern scourge of heart disease. In fact, recent evidence from intervention studies with large doses of the antioxidant vitamins and other antioxidants in foods has been very disappointing. Here, the background for the belief that antioxidants ought to be beneficial is examined and an attempt made to explain why the results of these intervention studies have been unsuccessful. It is agreed that a diet rich in fruit and vegetables is protective for both CVD and cancer, but the explanation for this effect may not necessarily lie with the presence of antioxidants.

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