Oxidative stress is considered to be an adverse bodily event. Antioxidants are considered to be healthful because they may protect the body from oxidative damage. This simple paradigm is much more complicated in practice, however. Reactive oxygen species are a physiological necessity but too much of them can be harmful. Whether antioxidants are really beneficial to health is not clear. Observational studies suggest either no effect or a beneficial effect of antioxidants on risks of major diseases, whereas intervention studies indicate no, beneficial, or adverse effects. Although the advice to increase the consumption of fruits and vegetables because of their beneficial effects on health remains secure, the evidence is lacking for beneficial effects of individual constituents such as antioxidants
European colleagues do a careful analysis of the pros and cons of antioxidants
Hans Verhagen, PhD; Brian Buijsse, MSc; Eugene Jansen, PhD; and Bas Bueno-de-Mesquita, MD, MPH, PhD, are all working at the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) in Bilthoven, The Netherlands. All authors have been working on antioxidants for many years. Brian Buijsse and Bas Bueno-de-Mesquita are part of the Centre for Nutrition and Health. Brian Buijsse is a PhD student in collaboration with Wageningen University, The Netherlands. Bas Bueno-de-Mesquita is a chronic disease epidemiologist and leading one of the cohorts of the EPIC project (http://www.iarc.fr/epic). Eugene Jansen is an analytical scientist in the Laboratory for Toxicology, Pathology, and Genetics. Hans Verhagen, is the head of the Centre for Nutrition and Health. He is a board-certified toxicologist and nutritionist, with current interests in the combination of these disciplines via integrated risk-benefit assessment.
Corresponding author: Hans Verhagen, PhD, National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM), Centre for Nutrition and Health, PO Box 1, NL-3720 BA, Bilthoven, The Netherlands (e-mail: Hans.Verhagen@rivm.nl).