The antioxidants--vitamin C,vitamin E, selenium, and carotenoids

J Agromedicine. 2003;9(1):65-82. doi: 10.1300/J096v09n01_07.


This is the second in a series of articles reviewing the recent revisions of the Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) and the resulting Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI). In April of 2000, the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Academy of Sciences released Dietary Reference Intakes for Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Selenium, and Carotenoids. The central premise of the report did not perpetuate the prevailing popular thought that large doses of antioxidants will prevent chronic diseases. Instead the panel concluded that at this time, insufficient scientific evidence exists to sustain claims that ingesting megadoses of dietary antioxidants can prevent certain chronic illnesses such as cardiovascular disease or cancer. In some instances recommended nutrient levels were reduced from the previous report in 1989; e.g., for the first time upper tolerable levels of ingestion (UL) were established to prevent the harmful effects of over consumption of essential nutrients, such as vitamin C, vitamin E, and selenium. Although dietary recommendations do exist for vitamin A, the panel did not set recommendations for beta-carotene or the other carotenoids due to lack of sufficient research to support recommended intakes or upper tolerable levels of intake. However, the panel advises the public to avoid intakes of provitamin A compounds, such as the numerous carotenoids, beyond the levels required to prevent vitamin A deficiency. Changes were also made with regard to estimating the amount of provitamin A carotenoids required to make a unit of retinal. The revised estimate suggests a twofold higher conversion rate than previously believed. Although this comprehensive report on the dietary reference intakes for vitamin C, vitamin E, selenium, and the carotenoids did not decisively confirm the role of antioxidants for the prevention of chronic diseases in humans, many research studies have generated new data to support this concept. Additional research is needed to define the attributes of antioxidants as studies progress from in vitro and animal studies to human nutrition.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antioxidants / administration & dosage*
  • Ascorbic Acid / administration & dosage
  • Carotenoids / administration & dosage
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Humans
  • Nutrition Policy*
  • Selenium / administration & dosage
  • United States
  • Vitamin E / administration & dosage


  • Antioxidants
  • Vitamin E
  • Carotenoids
  • Selenium
  • Ascorbic Acid