In 1988 over half of the deaths in the world were due to heart disease. The recognised risk factors for coronary heart disease are smoking, plasma cholesterol levels and hypertension. These factors, however, account only for some 50‐60 per cent of the variance in incidence of the disease between countries; so other factors must contribute. Recent biochemical evidence suggests that in conditions of oxidant stress a relative deficiency in antioxidants, in conjunction with a relatively high concentration of oxidisable substrates such as cholesterol, may play an important role in the development of atheroma. The efficiency of the human antioxidant defence system depends in part on an adequate intake of foods containing antioxidants such as vitamins C and E. Until intervention trials with these antioxidants show positive effects in reducing coronary heart disease, advising the general population to increase intake of Vitamin C and E is contentious. On the other hand increasing consumption of fruit and vegetables is unlikely to do any harm, and may do us some good.
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