Dietary antioxidants such as vitamins C and E can limit cellular damage from free radicals, which are damaging molecular fragments produced by the body. However, warns Norman I. Krinsky of Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston, studies in people have never "adequately" established a direct connection between antioxidant consumption and prevention of chronic disease. Overconsumption may even prove harmful.
Krinsky offered these take-home messages from a new report on the body's need for antioxidants. He chaired a panel that prepared the 485-page assessment published this week by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) in Washington, D.C.
Over the past few years, the institute has periodically recruited experts to set or revise recommended daily allowances (RDAs) for various nutrients. At the same time, it's begun expanding those dietary guidelines to include, among other things, a "tolerable upper intake"—a ceiling on how much of a given nutrient individuals