Women may need antioxidants more than men

September 3, 2002 in Nutrition Topics in the News, Vitamins, Minerals, Supplements

Women may need antioxidants more than men

For reasons that remain unclear, new study findings suggest that women experience more oxidation--a process suspected to play a role in the development of heart disease, stroke and cancer--than men. Vitamin C and other antioxidant vitamins can counteract this process.

Oxidative stress is the accumulation of cell-damaging substances called free radicals. This stress can be caused by outside factors, such as cigarette smoking, or by factors that occur in the body. Damage caused by oxidative stress is thought to contribute to the aging process and to many diseases.

Researchers at the University of California at Berkeley measured oxidative damage in 298 healthy adults who ranged in age from 19 to 78. The study included 138 cigarette smokers, 92 nonsmokers and 68 people who reported exposure to secondhand smoke.

The researchers measured levels of two substances--malondialdehyde and F2-isoprostanes--that are markers of oxidative damage. These byproducts are produced after fatty substances called lipids are oxidized.

Based on levels of these markers, oxidative damage was significantly more extensive in women than in men. In fact, female sex was a more powerful predictor of oxidative damage than smoking.

The higher level of oxidative damage in women was unexpected, and the researchers do not have a good explanation for it. In contrast, oxidative stress was lower in people who ate the most fruit as well as in those who had higher blood levels of vitamin C and carotenoids-natural pigments in fruits and vegetables that the body uses to make vitamin A.

All research on this web site is the property of Leslie Beck Nutrition Consulting Inc. and is protected by copyright. Keep in mind that research on these matters continues daily and is subject to change. The information presented is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. It is intended to provide ongoing support of your healthy lifestyle practices.