Diet High in Total Antioxidants Associated with Lower Risk of Myocardial Infarction in Women

The risk of death from coronary heart disease in women can be reduced by a diet rich in antioxidants, mainly from fruits and vegetables. The study is published in the October issue of The American Journal of Medicine.

From the American Journal of Medicine Press Release: “(This) study was the first to look at the effect of all dietary antioxidants in relation to myocardial infarction,” says lead investigator Alicja Wolk, DrMedSci, Division of Nutritional Epidemiology, Institute of Environmental Medicine, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden.

“Total antioxidant capacity measures in a single value all antioxidants present in diet and the synergistic effects between them.”

The study followed 32,561 Swedish women aged 49-83 from September 1997 through December 2007.The women completed a food-frequency questionnaire in which they were asked how often, on average,they consumed each type of food or beverage during the last year. The investigators calculated estimates of total antioxidant capacity from a database that measures the oxygen radical absorption capacity (ORAC) of the most common foods in the United States (no equivalent database of Swedish foods exists). The women were categorized into five groups of total antioxidant capacity of diet.

During the study, 1,114 women suffered a myocardial infarction. Women in the group with the highest total antioxidant capacity had a 20% lower risk, and they consumed almost 7 servings per day of fruit and vegetables, which was nearly 3 times more than the women with the least antioxidant capacity, who on average consumed 2.4 servings.””

For Stroke
“(the researchers) previously observed in our study population that total antioxidant capacity of diet was inversely associated with incidence of total stroke. Several foods that are major contributors to antioxidant intake in our study population have been linked to a decreased risk of coronary heart disease. In particular, high intake of fruit and vegetables, which contributed 44% of the dietary total antioxidant capacity in our study, have been inversely related to coronary heart disease in many studies. Whole grains (18% of total antioxidant capacity) also are suggested to lower coronary heart disease risk.Coffee consumption (14% of total antioxidant capacity) has been inversely related to coronary heart disease in some but not in all studies. Chocolate consumption (4% of total antioxidant capacity) has been shown to have favorable effects on cardiovascular risk biomarkers such as flow-mediated dilation and diastolic blood pressure, as shown by a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.

The pathogenesis of atherosclerosis involves oxidation of low-density lipoproteins caused by reactive oxygen species. Antioxidants found in diet are thought to protect against coronary heart disease by scavenging reactive oxygen species. In addition to antioxidant effects, flavonoids also may inhibit the atherosclerotic process through other pathways. Flavonoids have been shown to improve endothelial function, to decrease blood pressure, and to have antiplatelet and anti-inflammatory effects. (1)

1. “Total Antioxidant Capacity from Diet and Risk of Myocardial Infarction: A Prospective Cohort of Women,” by S. Rautiainen, E.B. Levitan, N.Orsini, A. Åkesson, R. Morgenstern, M.A. Mittleman, A. Wolk. (doi:10.1016/j.amjmed.2012.03.008). It appears in The American Journal of Medicine, Volume 125, Issue 10 (October 2012) published by Elsevier.