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Antioxidants Consumption not Associated with Dementia, Stroke

Update Date: Feb 21, 2013 08:30 AM EST

Eating a diet that has a lot of fruits and vegetables or including supplements containing antioxidants may not help people lower risk of stroke or dementia, says a new study.

Antioxidants are substances that may protect people from harmful effects of free radicals - molecules that are produced after food gets broken down in the body. These free radicals are associated with cell damage and elevated risk of cancers and heart attack, according to Medline Plus. Antioxidants include Beta-carotene, lycopene, selenium, vitamin A, C and E. Fruits, vegetables, nut and grains are good sources of antioxidants.

National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine says that including antioxidant supplements don't decrease the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases, cancers or cataracts.

"These results are interesting because other studies have suggested that antioxidants may help protect against stroke and dementia. It's possible that individual antioxidants, or the main foods that contribute those antioxidants-rather than the total antioxidant level in the diet-contribute to the lower risk of dementia and stroke found in earlier studies,"  said study author Elizabeth E. Devore, ScD, of Harvard Medical School in Boston and Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam, Netherlands.

The present study included more than 5,000 people aged around 55 years who had no prior dementia diagnosis. Participants were asked about their eating habits and were followed, on an average, for 14 years.

During the course of the study, 600 people developed dementia and another 600 had stroke. Study results showed that consumption of fruits and vegetables wasn't associated with either of the diseases.

Devore said that consumption of tea and coffee accounted for 90 percent of the difference in antioxidants levels between the group that consumed higher amounts of antioxidants and the group that had the lowest. Both the beverages are nontraditional sources of antioxidants in the diet.

"This differed from an Italian study that found the higher total antioxidant levels were associated with a lower risk of stroke, where the variation from coffee and tea was lower, and the contribution from alcoholic beverages, fruits and vegetables was higher," Devore said in a news release.

The study is published in the journal Neurology. 

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