Does Total Antioxidant Capacity Really Matter?

Alvin B. Lin, MD, FAAFP
Dr. Lin is an associate professor of family and community medicine at University of Nevada School of Medicine and an adjunct professor of family medicine and geriatrics at Touro University Nevada College of Medicine. He also serves as an advisory medical director for Infinity Hospice Care and as medical director of Lions HealthFirst Foundation. Dr. Lin maintains a small private practice in Las Vegas, NV. The posts represent the views of Dr. Lin, and in no way are to be construed as representative of the above listed organizations. Dr. Lin blogs about current medical literature and news at

So I'm on my way out to Kansas City, MO later today to make an audio recording, No, I'm not going to rap or sing country western, nothing like Hayden Panettiere on ABC's Nashville, But this essentially overnight trip has thrown me off my schedule as I squeeze just one more thing onto my to-do list, Thankfully, Lily is improving & feeling better, so thank you for your prayers & support.

As I was cleaning out my inbox, I stumbled upon yet another summary newsletter extolling the virtues of total antioxidant capacity in preventing heart disease in women as published this month in the American Journal of Medicine, It turns out the authors followed 32,561 Swedish women for 10 years after assessing total antioxidant capacity by food frequency questionnaire just once at baseline, After a decade, they then determined the number who had suffered a heart attack and compared their total antioxidant capacity to those who had not suffered an event,

Lo and behold, those who had the highest total antioxidant capacity had the lowest risk of heart attacks, approximately 20% lower than those with the lowest value, Interesting, servings of fruits & vegetables didn't make a difference, But be very careful of extrapolating the results of this study and jumping to the incorrect conclusion that taking a high antioxidant supplement will give you the same effect, Unfortunately, we have no data suggesting this advertising leap of faith.

Bottom line, it's still better to eat your way to good health rather than attempt to achieve the same by popping some pills, Oh, and what to make of the lack of benefit from serving numbers? Remember that we need to focus on quality, not just quantity. So don't just pick French fries & potato chips as your vegetables but rather include a variety of brightly colored & darkly colored fruits & vegetables in your daily diet, As an aside, the study also included coffee as another source of antioxidants!  OK, one last point, total antioxidant capacity is often measured (and advertised) as ORAC or oxygen radical absorbance capacity. So be careful when readi