Year after year, average life expectancy in Japan continues to be the highest in the world.  Some speculate that the Japanese diet, which is abundant in antioxidant-rich foods such as vegetables, fruits, seaweed and green tea, may play a protective role in safeguarding against conditions such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and certain cancers.

Regular consumption of antioxidant-rich foods provides a variety of compounds that can act in different ways. Whereas some antioxidants prevent cellular oxidative damage by stabilizing free radicals, others halt further cellular damage and thereby alleviate oxidative stress. Using methods to measure the antioxidant capacity of bioactive compounds acquired largely through dietary intake, epidemiological studies have estimated the associations of overall dietary antioxidant capacity and risks of various diseases.

A recent study by Ikuko Kashino (National Center for Global Health and Medicine) and colleagues, published in The Journal of Nutrition, examined prospective associations between dietary antioxidant capacity and all-cause or cause-specific mortality including cancer, cardiovascular disease, cerebrovascular disease, and heart disease.

This large-scale population-based, prospective cohort study consisting of 92,727 participants aged 44-76 y was conducted in Japan.  A food frequency questionnaire, which included foods with known measures of antioxidant capacity, was used to assess dietary information.  To identify death and cause of death, researchers utilized residential registries and death certificates.

With an average of 16.9 y of follow-up, the authors concluded that there were inverse associations between dietary antioxidant capacity and both all-cause mortality and mortality from cardiovascular disease, but not cancer. This new evidence provides useful information for the design of health promotion strategies that can be implemented with minimal cost.

A corresponding editorial by Wen-Hsing Cheng suggests that personalized diets should have increased consumption and variety of certain plant whole foods, including green tea and colorful fruits and vegetables rich in antioxidants.

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Reference. Kashino I, Mizoue T, Serafini M, Akter S, Sawada N, Ishihara J, Kotemori A, Inoue M, Yamaji T, Goto A, Iwasaki M, Noda M, Tsugane S for the Japan Public Health Center-based Prospective Study Group. Higher dietary non-enzymatic antioxidant capacity is associated with decreased risk of all-cause and cardiovascular disease mortality in Japanese Adults. The Journal of Nutrition. 2019. https://doi.org/10.1093/jn/nxz145

Cover Image by Andre Benz on Unsplash