Summary and Concluding Remarks

Our diet contains a multitude of antioxidants that we cannot synthesize, and most are plant-based. The available evidence supports a role for antioxidant-rich foods in the promotion of health, although it is not yet clear how many antioxidants and how much of each are needed to achieve an optimal status of antioxidant defense and minimize disease risk. Nor is it clear whether the benefit is of a threshold type or whether it continues to increase with the amount of antioxidant ingested. It is also not yet known whether those dietary antioxidants for which there is no absolute known requirement play a significant role in human antioxidant defense and health or whether they are merely coincidental co-travellers with other, as yet unknown, antioxidant or nonantioxi-dant dietary constituents that have beneficial effects. A reasonable recommendation is to eat a variety of antioxidant-rich foods on a regular basis. This is likely to be beneficial and is not associated with any harmful effects. However, further study is needed before firm conclusions can be drawn regarding the long-term health benefits of increasing antioxidant defense per se, whether through food or supplements. The challenge in nutritional and biomedical science remains to develop tools that will allow the measurement of biomarkers of functional and nutritional status and to clarify human requirements for dietary antioxidants, the goal being the design of nutritional strategies to promote health and functional longevity.

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