Effect of Dietary Antioxidants on Oxidative Stress, Inflammation and Metabolic Factors : Studies in Subjects with Overweight and with Type 2 Diabetes

Abstract: Observational studies have indicated that fruit and vegetables, and dietary antioxidants may play an important role in reducing the risk of chronic diseases, potentially by affecting pathogenic mechanisms such as oxidative stress and inflammation. Clinical trials investigating the effects of supplementation with single or a few antioxidants in high doses have, however, shown inconsistent results and thus have not been able to support the observational findings. It was therefore hypothesised that a supplement, containing a combination of antioxidants mainly extracted from fruit and vegetables, and supplied at moderate doses, might act more beneficially than single antioxidants given at pharmacological doses. The effects of such a supplement were investigated in two interventional studies described in this thesis. The effects on antioxidant status, metabolic control, oxidative stress and inflammation were investigated in overweight men and in patients with type 2 diabetes, subjects that could be expected to have elevated levels of oxidative stress and inflammatory activity. The results of the studies did not support the hypothesis that supplementation with antioxidants from fruit and vegetables may have beneficial effects by counteracting oxidative stress and inflammation, despite markedly increased plasma antioxidant concentrations. However, interesting associations were observed in diabetes patients at baseline between intake of antioxidant rich food as well as levels of antioxidants in plasma, and markers of oxidative stress and inflammation. These associations are compatible with the hypothesis that a high intake of fruit and vegetables and dietary antioxidants decrease oxidative stress levels, have anti-inflammatory effects and a beneficial influence on glycaemic control. The results also indicated that glycaemic control may affect the level of oxidative stress. The absence of beneficial effects from antioxidants might to some extent be explained by the initial levels of oxidative stress and inflammation and by the antioxidative status in the subjects included in the studies. Since the levels generally were comparable with those observed in healthy subjects, this might have decreased the ability to observe any beneficial effects of supplementation with additional antioxidants. Continued investigations are needed to characterise the individuals who potentially might benefit from antioxidant supplementation. In view of apparent positive effects from a high intake of fruit and vegetables found in observational studies and until more knowledge is available from interventional trials about possible benefits and potential risks of antioxidant supplementation it still seems reasonable to recommend a diet rich in fruit and vegetables.