Oxidized LDL and coronary heart disease

Part 3: Or drink coffee?

There is not much point in eating foods such as fruit and vegetables that contain antioxidants unless the antioxidants they contain are absorbed into the body.

Just how useful they are in this regard was tested in 2004 by scientists at the University of Oslo, Norway.[1] The study's objective was to determine the contribution of various food groups to total antioxidant intake, and to assess just how much of these antioxidants was actually absorbed into the bloodstream from each of the various food groups.

Figure 1 shows these levels. As you can clearly see, fruit and veges play very little part.

Graph of antioxidants absorbed

Even wine and tea, which we are also told are great suppliers of antioxidants, are actually very poor suppliers.

With 11.1 mmols in the bloodstream, coffee supplied almost twice as much usable antioxidant as all the rest put together. So, should we drink lots of coffee? Who knows? A review published in 2001 reported the dismal findings of several sizeable randomised trials of antioxidant vitamins, which in the main showed that, not only did they not help to decrease death rates, in two studies of the antioxidant, beta-carotene, there was a possible increased risk of heart attacks.[2] This was confirmed in a report of 2002 when the huge Heart Protection Study was forced to conclude that:

'despite assessing the combined effects of several years of substantial daily doses of different antioxidant vitamins (including 600 mg of vitamin E) in a large number of high-risk people, the Heart Protection Study has not been able to demonstrate any benefits from such supplementation.'[3]

But those taking part in the trials may not have been drinking coffee; it wasn't tested.


1. Svilaas A, Sakhi AK, Andersen LF, et al. Intakes of antioxidants in coffee, wine, and vegetables are correlated with plasma carotenoids in humans. J Nutr 2004; 134: 562-7.
2. Joshipura KJ, Hu FB, Manson JE, et al. The effect of fruit and vegetable intake on risk for coronary heart disease. Ann Intern Med 2001; 134: 1106-14.
3. MRC/BHF Heart Protection Study of antioxidant vitamin supplementation in 20 536 high-risk individuals: a randomised placebo-controlled trial. Lancet 2002; 360: 23-33

Part 1: Oxidized LDL | Part 2: Take antioxidants? | Part 3: Or drink coffee? | Part 4: Conclusion

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Last updated: December 9, 2011