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Can Antioxidant Supplements Support Healthy Aging?

Antioxidants are sometimes thought of as having anti-aging powers. But studies investigating the relationship between antioxidant supplementation and healthy aging have often come to conflicting conclusions. Now, a recent study, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology and reported on by NutraIngredients, has found that antioxidant supplements may increase the likelihood of healthy aging in men, and also might be beneficial for people with low levels of certain antioxidants. The study was based on data from 3,966 men and women with an average age of 65 who had participated in the Supplementation with Antioxidant Vitamins and Minerals (SU.VI.MAX) Study (1994–2002) and the SU.VI.MAX 2 Follow-up Study (2007–2009). In the initial SU.VI.MAX study from 1994 to 2002, participants were randomly assigned to receive either a daily placebo or a combination of antioxidants, including vitamin C (120 mg), beta-carotene (6 mg), vitamin E (30 mg), selenium (100 µg), and zinc (20 mg). Using data from the SU.VI.MAX 2 study, researchers looked at various markers of healthy aging to evaluate participants' aging status, including the absence of major chronic diseases and good physical and cognitive functioning. Here is what researchers found:

  • Antioxidant supplementation was associated with an increased probability of healthy aging among men, but not among women.
  • Antioxidant supplementation was associated with an increased probability of healthy aging for men and women with low vitamin C levels, for men with low zinc levels, and for men consuming fewer than five servings of fruits and vegetables per day.

While it is unclear why there was a disparity between men and women, researchers posit that the women in the study population may have had higher antioxidant levels than the men. Overall, the study concluded that getting an adequate amount of antioxidants from a diet rich in fruits and vegetables is important for healthy aging. Some particularly good food sources of antioxidants include broccoli, carrots, citrus fruits, kale, spinach, sweet peppers, tomatoes, and watermelon.

Source: American Journal of Epidemiology

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