For a long time, the increased consumption of fruits and vegetables was considered critical in protecting humans against a number of diseases, such as cancer, diabetes, neurodegenerative diseases, and heart and brain vascular diseases. Presently, it is thought that the protective properties of these foods result from the presence of low-molecular antioxidants that protect the cells and their structures against oxidative damage. The alleged effect of reducing the risk for many diseases is not only due to the effect of individual antioxidants, such as α-tocopherol, ascorbic acid, or β-carotene, but also may be the result of antioxidant compounds not yet known or synergy of several different antioxidants present in fruits and vegetables. Studies on macromolecules (DNA, nucleotides, proteins) free-radical-related damage showed that diets enriched with extra servings of fruits and vegetables rich in β-carotene, tocopherols, and ascorbic acid had only limited effect on the inhibition of oxidation processes. A number of studies have shown, however, that consuming less common fruits and vegetables contribute much more to the reduction of free-radical processes, most likely because they contain a large amount of non-vitamin antioxidants, such as polyphenols and anthocyanins.
Keywords: Antioxidants; Cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases; Reactive oxygen species; Total antioxidant capacity; Vitamins.
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