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Does taking antioxidant supplements improve health?

Dariush Mozaffarian, MD
Internal Medicine
A study that pooled results from 68 randomized trials with over 230,000 participants offered evidence that taking antioxidant supplements is unlikely to help you live longer -- and in fact, some supplements may even be harmful. After reviewing the literature, the authors found that people who were given vitamin E, beta carotene, and vitamin A had a higher risk of death than those who took a placebo. There appeared to be no effect from vitamin C pills and a small reduction in mortality from selenium, but further research on these nutrients is needed. So these findings suggest little overall benefit of the antioxidants in pill form. On the other hand, many studies show that people who consume higher levels of these antioxidants in food have a lower risk of many diseases, so eating a healthy diet is the best way to get your antioxidants. For example, in controlled trials, small (10 g) daily doses of dark chocolate lead to more normal blood vessel function and lower blood pressure. People who eat diets rich in fruits and vegetables also have lower risk of cardiovascular diseases and cancers.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.