Women: Eating Antioxidants May Benefit Heart

Women: Eating Antioxidants May Benefit Heart  : Main Image
Adding two peppers or one to two apples per day could decrease relative risk of heart failure by 16%

While the debate continues on the role of antioxidant supplements in heart health, a study published in the American Journal of Medicine found that women whose diets provided the most antioxidants had a 42% lower risk of heart failure than women whose diets provided the least.

Heart failure in women is related to diet

The 33,713 women in the study filled out diet questionnaires and were followed for just over 11 years. After estimating the antioxidant strengths of the foods they ate researchers divided the women into five groups based on their total intake of dietary antioxidants. During the study, 894 of the participants experienced heart failure.

The researchers found that dietary antioxidants and heart failure risk were linked:

  • Women consuming the highest amounts of antioxidants had only a 2% incidence of heart failure during the study, while the incidence in women in the lowest antioxidant intake group was nearly twice as high (3.9%).
  • An analysis of the data suggested that adding two peppers or one to two apples per day could increase antioxidant intake enough to decrease the relative risk of heart failure by 16%.
  • Fruits and vegetables were the main source of antioxidants, but even when those foods were removed from the statistical analysis, women who ate the most antioxidants from other sources still had a markedly lower heart failure risk. Other major sources were whole grains, coffee, and chocolate.

Get antioxidants from food

“These results suggest that a healthful diet high in antioxidants may help prevent heart failure,” the study’s authors said, cautioning against generalizing this to mean that antioxidant supplements will have the same effects.

While these findings cannot be considered definitive because of the observational nature of the study, the body of research showing the health benefits of eating lots of fruits and vegetables is too big to argue against. Heart failure is just one of many health problems that is likely to be prevented by including fruits, vegetables, and other antioxidant-rich foods every day.

Does your diet provide a protective amount of antioxidants? Use the following ideas to be sure:

  • Eat colorfully. Antioxidants in plants are often pigments, so colorful fruits and vegetables tend to be higher in antioxidants. Choose dark berries, pink grapefruits, purple cabbage, purple potatoes, purple onions, and dark green lettuce.
  • Spice it up. Fresh culinary herbs such as oregano, rosemary, and basil add lots of antioxidant value to your favorite dishes. Even dried herbs can boost the antioxidant level of a meal.
  • Don’t forget fats. Nuts, seeds, and fatty fruits like avocados are high in the vitamin E family of antioxidants. Vitamin E can help protect the cells that line the blood vessels.

(Am J Med 2013;doi:pii: S0002-9343(13)00035-1.10.1016/j.amjmed.2013.01.006)

Maureen Williams, ND, completed her doctorate in naturopathic medicine at Bastyr University in Seattle and has been in private practice since 1995. With an abiding commitment to access to care, she has worked in free clinics in the US and Canada, and in rural clinics in Guatemala and Honduras where she has studied traditional herbal medicine. She currently lives and practices in Victoria, BC, and lectures and writes extensively for both professional and community audiences on topics including family nutrition, menopause, anxiety and depression, heart disease, cancer, and easing stress. Dr. Williams is a regular contributor to Healthnotes Newswire.

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