By Dr. Janet Brill

Q: I have been taking an antioxidant supplement, but how do I know if it’s doing anything for me?

A: Scientists have proven beyond any shadow of a doubt that consuming a plant-based diet of whole foods—naturally rich in antioxidant vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytochemicals—can provide substantial health benefits such as prevention of chronic disease like diabetes, cancer and heart disease. In contrast, consuming man-made supplements of concentrated antioxidants extracted from plants, has not shown to benefit health. In fact, some studies have demonstrated that consuming certain antioxidant supplements increases risk of disease! A 2007 review article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (G. Gjelakovic et al.) revealed that subjects taking beta-carotene, vitamin E or vitamin A supplements, either alone or in combination, actually raised their risk of dying prematurely.

So what’s the take-away message regarding whether your antioxidant supplements are doing anything for you? Swallowing pills will not buy you good health or a long life. An active lifestyle combined with eating a Mediterranean-style plant-based diet, filled with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, olive oil, nuts and a small amount of fish, is the secret to better health. This is the ultimate wellness prescription that simply cannot compare to anything that can be purchased in a bottle.

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