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Anti-Inflammatory Antioxidants

Even when choosing the same quantity of fruits and vegetables, those making higher antioxidant choices experienced a reduction in C-reactive protein (inflammation) levels.

January 27, 2012 |
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Acknowledgements

Image thanks to kimubert

Transcript

Should we really try to go out of our way to make higher antioxidant choices? Isn't it enough just to eat lots of fruits and vegetables? Does it really matter which ones we eat?

Yes it does. Check out this new study. They took two dozen folks; had them eat a high antioxidant diet and a low antioxidant diet but here's the catch. Throughout, they ate the same number of fruits and vegetables -- the same amount of fiber etc.

So, while on the high antioxidant diet they were eating, like, berries and citrus, and on the low antioxidant diet they had to stick to wimpier choices like lettuce and bananas. But same amount.

This is what happened to the level of inflammation within their bodies. Those switching from their regular diet to an even lower antioxidant diet saw the levels of C-reactive protein in their bodies rise 40%, whereas those switching to the high antioxidant diet saw their levels drop, even though both groups were eating the same number of servings of fruits and vegetables every day.

So, quality counts, not just quantity.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is transcript contributed by Bruce A. Hamilton.

To help out on the site please email volunteer@nutritionfacts.org

Dr. Michael Greger

Doctor's Note

Please feel free to post any ask-the-doctor type questions here in the comments section and I’d be happy to try to answer them. Be sure to check out all the other videos on antioxidants and don't miss the videos on inflammation. And there are 1,449 subjects covered in the rest of my videos–please feel free to explore them!

Also, be sure to check out my associated blog posts: Fighting Inflammation with Food Synergy, The Most Anti-Inflammatory MushroomAntioxidants in a Pinch: Dried Herbs and Spices, Lead Poisoning Risk From Venison,How Tumors Use Meat to GrowPlant-Based Diets for Rheumatoid Arthritis98% of American Diets Potassium DeficientPlant-Based Diets for Fibromyalgia, and Hibiscus Tea: The Best Beverage?

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/mgreger/ Michael Greger M.D.

    Please feel free to post any ask-the-doctor type questions here in the comments section and I’d be happy to try to answer them. Be sure to check out all the other videos on antioxidants and don’t miss the videos on inflammation. And there are 1,449 subjects covered in the rest of my videos–please feel free to explore them!

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/bpcveg/ BPC

    Interesting study…
    It seems that one key difference between your morning smoothie recommended in 2010 (see “just-the-flax-maam”) and your smoothie recommended in 2012 (see “a-better-breakfast”) is that you have stopped adding banana. I am guessing that the current video sheds some light on this…
    Would you recommend completely eliminating banana from the diet due to its lower antioxidant content than other fruits?

    • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/mgreger/ Michael Greger M.D.

      Bananas are certainly better than nothing (and so yummy), but is would be healthier if you have the option of replacing it with even better fruits (like more berries! :)

      • Valnaples

        I’ve been doing a dark berry combo about 4 or 5 times each week…blueberries and cranberries with a hit of fresh citrus, usually fresh orange sections. And I *do* love a small banana with a few walnuts as a snack in the afternoon at work.

      • Therese Dion Cuba

        Bananas are high in potassium, so I eat one per day. I will vary my other fruit. Are frozen berries nutritionally okay or must they be raw? I freeze strawberries because I don’t eat them fast enough and they go bad. If I have too many bananas and they are getting really old, I’ll freeze them too and use them in the future in oatmeal or smoothies, or just thawed. Thank you.

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/badg900/ badg900

    Can you clarify the regular vs low antioxidant diet scenario? Is the low antioxidant scenario lower in antioxidants than the regular diet? I was expecting both high and low to be better than the regular diet, i.e., I assumed the regular diet would be similar to the SAD before seeing the results. Thx for the great info!

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/emootje/ Emootje

    Is it possible to eat to much antioxidants?
    (I have heard that antioxidants in large amounts can become pro-oxidants)

    • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/lilytree/ lilytree

      I read an article about this too, but I disregarded it when I saw that the researchers gave antioxidants (not whole foods) to animals (not humans).

    • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/aguccionesbcglobal-net/ aguccione@sbcglobal.net

      You question also peaked my interest. Here’s a link that cites studies indicating that over supplementing with antioxidants may have anti-nutrient effects:
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antioxidant

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/rymiwe/ rymiwe

    Dr. Greger,

    Sorry if I’ve missed this from earlier. How does whole, frozen amla stack up against the dried powder? Figuring the whole fruit was bound to be more nutritious than any processed form, I promptly went out to my local Indian grocer and bought 6 pounds of the frozen variety for only $4/pound!

    Thanks!

    • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/filippodibari/ filippodibari

      thanks for this question – I was also interested in this aspect. Thanks. Fil

    • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/badg900/ badg900

      I did the same thing…my Indian store only had frozen amla, no powder. I hope it was a good choice.

    • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/mgreger/ Michael Greger M.D.

      Frozen amla is probably the healthiest way most can buy it, but it’s only healthy if you actually eat it. I tried a bag and it was tough for me to get over the taste. I find I get much more of the powdered Indian gooseberries in my diet by hiding them in my hibiscus punch. But if you can find a way to stomach them whole more power to you!

      • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/rymiwe/ rymiwe

        Thanks for the response! I toss a couple into my morning banana/berry shake and don’t notice the sourness.

        I was inspired by your cold-brewed hibiscus punch too, but I made date syrup to sweeten it and gets pretty grainy before it gets sweet. Maybe I’ll try the erythritol next time.

        Thanks!

    • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/toxins/ Toxins

      I sprinkle Amla powder into my almond butter and jam sandwich. You dont notice it so much!

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/thea/ Thea

    This video is another great answer to the (valid) question that people post again and again: do antioxidants matter? Do we have any evidence that antioxidants have a healthful impact? Well, yes, yes we do. Thanks!

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/meha/ Meha

    A version with Brazilian Portuguese subtitles:

    http://youtu.be/fpsQls8fbp0

    My wife helped me, this one it’s much better than the previous ones!

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/quiltingal/ quiltingal

    So I was curious about the best food choices to make regarding antioxidants. Googled it. Guess what? The top 20 foods include russet potatoes but no citrus, no kale. Several kinds of apples made it. Bluesberries, of course, made it, as did several kinds of beans. But no citrus in the top 20? And russet potatoes? What gives?

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/TanTruong/ Tan Truong

    Dr. Greger or anyone that may have insight:

    Since this is about “Anti-inflammatory antioxidants”, I thought my hives issue is relevant. Correct me if it’s not.

    I’ve had this bad case of hives for years. I get hives regardless of environment or situation — more intensely when in contact with dust. I have to take an antihistamine pill almost everyday or my hives will itch me to insanity. However, I fear what it’s doing to my health in the long term.

    Is there a food cure for this? If not, will an increase in antioxidants such as berries reduce my need for antihistamine pills?

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/drdons/ DrDons

    Hives are typically an allergic response by your body to something in the environment such as chemicals (skin contact, inhalation, and food)or physical conditions (pressure, heat, cold). Given the number of substances we are exposed to this gets to be very difficult to figure out what the trigger(s) are. See video… http://nutritionfacts.org/videos/throw-household-products-off-the-scent/. So I don’t think you will find a food “cure”. I also don’t think antioxidants will reduce your need for antihistamines. Going on a plant based diet will tend to help improve the protective effects of your gastrointestinal system so “foreign” substances will have less chance to get in your body. Going plant based will also decrease your exposure to the thousands of chemicals in the environment…. see video http://nutritionfacts.org/videos/industrial-pollutants-in-vegans/. So going plant based is the first step. Since people can be allergic to plants the next step is to eliminate the most likely triggers or to go further to an elimination diet. Dr. McDougall’s December 2002 newsletter, Diet for the Desperate, very well outlines these approaches see his website for the article. First by eliminating the most common triggers (i.e. dairy, eggs, chocolate, nuts, shellfish and fish) and then if no success further eliminating the most likely triggers in the vegetable world including wheat, corn, citrus, tomatoes and strawberries. My patients find that a better route then the full elimination diet but that option is outlined as well. The “risk” of medication must be weighed against the advantages. Hives can be debilitating and antihistamines are generally well tolerated. Hopefully you will be able to find the trigger(s) and avoid the medication. Hope this information is helpful. For medical advice I would advise you to work with an experienced well qualified allergist as the knowledge and treatment of hives has improved over the years and keep up with Nutritionfacts.org as the science keeps changing. Good luck.

    • garder

      Hello,
      I was on antihistamines and decongestants for over 15 years – not for hives, but for nasal allergic symptoms. I recently started high doses of vitamin C – plain ascorbic acid – typically 10,000-15,000 mg spread through the day. I started with 2000 and increased gradually over the course of a week. By the end of the week, I was able to stop my allergy meds for the first time in 15 years. A month later, I only take an occasional decongestant if I’m in a high exposure situation. I have no idea if it would help you but it’s safe stuff up to the point that it loosens the bowels. It’s cheap and might be worth a try. I did find that additives like rosehips or flavonoids gave me gastric trouble.

  • Valnaples

    I do a dark berry concoction 3 or 4 times each week that involves organic wild blueberries, cranberries and sometimes I add organic strawberries if in season (I’m in Florida so am lucky on that) and I always add fresh orange pieces to the concoction so that my blender doesn’t jam up. The BEST! Thanks Doc!

    • Michael Greger M.D.

       You’re making me hungry Valnaples!

  • Michael Greger M.D.

    Please also check out my associated blog post Fighting Inflammation with Food Synergy

  • http://www.facebook.com/geoffrey.levens Geoffrey Levens

    Just looked up the actual study.  I believe it is highly likely to be true but I don’t think   one study with 24 subjects just isn’t enough for a Q.E.D.  I worked for quite a few years in a cell bio lab and so much can happen to skew the results away from reality and it can take a long time to find that you are running down a blind alley that you want so much to be true.

  • daisy

    does air popped organic popcorn have a high content of antioxidants too?i have heard/read that it does.

  • Steven A

    My CRP level was 0.2 (measured twice) – very, very low according to the Naturopathic Doctor who made me test it.

    I’ve been eating a variety of plants (no animals) for the last 3 and a half years, but the one food that I think was the kicker –according to some- was my daily hot pepper (mostly jalapenos) eaten with seeds and all.

    Do you think that could be true?

    Thanks,
    Steven

  • PAT

    I do not care for berries, I like bananas, but do not eat them much at all. Can I take a potassium pill? I have taken some before, I have no problems taking them. Can lower potassium make you overly tired?

    • http://www.DonForresterMD.com/ Don Forrester MD

      All plants contain potassium in fair amounts. Your kidneys are designed to do a great job at helping the body regulate potassium/sodium in the blood. So when eating a plant based diet you shouldn’t have to worry about potassium unless you are taking some medications like diuretics or have certain diseases such as kidney disease or rare tumors that secrete hormones that effect sodium/potassium balance in the body. Low potassium can be a source of fatigue as can many other conditions including low thyroid, poor conditioning, lack of sleep, poor nutrition, anemia… to name just a few. If you are eating healthy and still feeling fatigued it might be a good idea to check things out with your physician before self medicating with pills.

  • Stephen Lucker Kelly

    So which fruit in this study did the people on the higher antioxidant diets eat? Apples?

    • beccadoggie10

      “[O]n the high antioxidant diet they were eating, like, berries and citrus.” While “on the low antioxidant diet they had to stick to wimpier choices like ‘lettuce and bananas’.”

      I used to eat bananas and lettuce a lot before I had developed osteoporosis. But after reading Foods That Fight Pain and Power Foods for the Brain by Dr. Neal Barnard, I changed my diet and have really noticed the difference in my overall health.

      http://www.nealbarnard.org/books/brain/
      and
      http://tinyurl.com/n8a34bt , I really noticed a difference in my body and brain.

  • Karen

    My Father, age 91 was just in the hospital with low sodium. My question is: Would it be ok to give him iodine drops? If so how much per day. When he left hospital this morning is sodium was 124. Thank

  • Galochka

    I have old frend . She had a 4 surgery in her khee and also she had a strok onoder site. She is in weel cher . Her leg is swolin and red( dark purpul) I realy like to help her but I like you advise what is the best way to help her?

  • http://treegrower.org/ Calvin Leman

    Really,lower antioxidant in food gives higher antioxidant activity? Or do I not understand?

  • beccadoggie10

    I have a cup of black or blueberries every day with my steel cut oats for breakfast, as well as eat mushrooms with my beans and collards, red Bermuda onions, garlic, ginger and turmeric and other anti-inflammatory nutrients in a quest to lower the pain and inflammation in body since my total knee replacement in 2007 and now my spinal fractures in 2012 and 2013.

    My shins are still inflamed, but the anti-inflammatory and high antioxidants seem to help my spine, as well as the ability for my skin and nerves to heal. And, the blueberries really benefit my cognitive ability –memory and ability to figure things out.

    Since my repeated spinal fracture, I’m eating as healthy as I know how, and although some pain still remains, it minimal compared with earlier when I was not as cognizant of my chosen foods.

  • ngershman

    Dr. Greger, I am a 55 year old, otherwise healthy female. My bouts with contact dermatitis started with geraniums, but my increasing sensitivity which is activating my histamines – has expanded to contact with any plants at all. I don’t want to be dependent upon Zyrtec, let alone steroids to reduce the inflammation and blistering. At one time I tried several series of acupuncture to short circuit my system (for a rash which dermatologists could never diagnose), which worked in that instance. What would you recommend?