by Lisa Garber
August 31st, 2012
Updated 04/25/2013 at 2:28 am
Antioxidants are something of a buzz word in the natural health community, and for good reason. They scavenge cancer-causing free radicals throughout our body, which leads to improved health and healthier aging. We now have genetic evidence that antioxidants kill cancer
, and they even help improve memory. Here are the top antioxidant rich foods you probably (and should) have in your kitchen.
Top 5 Antioxidant Rich Foods
Imagine if we could simply sprinkle antioxidants onto any bland food. Good news: we can! By weight, spices have the most antioxidants of any food, with cloves bearing an Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) of about 300,000 units per 100 grams. (But please don’t consume 100 grams of cloves in one sitting!) Other powerful spices include turmeric, oregano, rosemary, cinnamon, and vanilla.
Despite being typically thought of as a junk food, chocolate is packed full of antioxidants. The key to finding more antioxidants (and less fat and sugar) in your chocolate is getting the right kind. Unsweetened cocoa powder has ORAC values of 50,000, so you can make your own healthy chocolate by combining it with real butter or coconut oil and moderate amounts of healthy sugars, like maple syrup or honey. When you’re on the move, though, reach for dark chocolate, which clocks in at about 20,000 units of antioxidants.
Depending on the brew time and bean variety, coffee has an ORAC value of up to 17,000 units. In moderate amounts, coffee health benefits
include protection against atherosclerosis, type II diabetes, depression, and even dementia.
Berries have been marketed for many years as great antioxidant rich foods. Himalayan goji berries and Acai berries have the most antioxidants—25,000 and 18,5000 respectively. For those of us saving money or buying local, however, blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries still pack quite an antioxidant punch. Dried varieties, like raisins (over 10,000 units) are good choices, too. Just be sure to avoid types loaded with added sugar.
Nuts provide numerous health benefits overall, with the health benefits of pistachios
showcasing just a handful of them. Not only are nuts a great snack rich with protein, fiber, and healthy fats, but they also provide lots of antioxidants. Pecans have an ORAC value of nearly 18,000, while walnuts, hazelnuts, pistachios, and almonds are also good choices.
There are other antioxidant rich foods, but the top 5 above should be more than enough to significantly boost your antioxidant intake. Remember to buy organic as often as possible. Organic produce contains more nutrients and antioxidants than conventionally grown varieties!
2013 Apr 24;309(16):1696-703. doi: 10.1001/jama.2013.2270.
SourceDepartment of Neurology, Aarhus University Hospital, Norrebrogade 44, DK-8000 Aarhus C, Denmark. firstname.lastname@example.org
IMPORTANCE: Valproate is used for the treatment of epilepsy and other neuropsychological disorders and may be the only treatment option for women of childbearing potential. However, prenatal exposure to valproate may increase the risk of autism.
OBJECTIVE: To determine whether prenatal exposure to valproate is associated with an increased risk of autism in offspring.
DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS: Population-based study of all children born alive in Denmark from 1996 to 2006. National registers were used to identify children exposed to valproate during pregnancy and diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders (childhood autism [autistic disorder], Asperger syndrome, atypical autism, and other or unspecified pervasive developmental disorders). We analyzed the risks associated with all autism spectrum disorders as well as childhood autism. Data were analyzed by Cox regression adjusting for potential confounders (maternal age at conception, paternal age at conception, parental psychiatric history, gestational age, birth weight, sex, congenital malformations, and parity). Children were followed up from birth until the day of autism spectrum disorder diagnosis, death, emigration, or December 31, 2010, whichever came first. MAIN OUTCOMES AND MEASURES: Absolute risk (cumulative incidence) and the hazard ratio (HR) of autism spectrum disorder and childhood autism in children after exposure to valproate in pregnancy.
RESULTS: Of 655,615 children born from 1996 through 2006, 5437 were identified with autism spectrum disorder, including 2067 with childhood autism. The mean age of the children at end of follow-up was 8.84 years (range, 4-14; median, 8.85). The estimated absolute risk after 14 years of follow-up was 1.53% (95% CI, 1.47%-1.58%) for autism spectrum disorder and 0.48% (95% CI, 0.46%-0.51%) for childhood autism. Overall, the 508 children exposed to valproate had an absolute risk of 4.42% (95% CI, 2.59%-7.46%) for autism spectrum disorder (adjusted HR, 2.9 [95% CI, 1.7-4.9]) and an absolute risk of 2.50% (95% CI, 1.30%-4.81%) for childhood autism (adjusted HR, 5.2 [95% CI, 2.7-10.0]). When restricting the cohort to the 6584 children born to women with epilepsy, the absolute risk of autism spectrum disorder among 432 children exposed to valproate was 4.15% (95% CI, 2.20%-7.81%) (adjusted HR, 1.7 [95% CI, 0.9-3.2]), and the absolute risk of childhood autism was 2.95% (95% CI, 1.42%-6.11%) (adjusted HR, 2.9 [95% CI, 1.4-6.0]) vs 2.44% (95% CI, 1.88%-3.16%) for autism spectrum disorder and 1.02% (95% CI, 0.70%-1.49%) for childhood autism among 6152 children not exposed to valproate.
CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE: Maternal use of valproate during pregnancy was associated with a significantly increased risk of autism spectrum disorder and childhood autism in the offspring, even after adjusting for maternal epilepsy. For women of childbearing potential who use antiepileptic medications, these findings must be balanced against the treatment benefits for women who require valproate for epilepsy control.
- [PubMed - in process]
2013 Apr 19;346:f2059. doi: 10.1136/bmj.f2059.
Parental depression, maternal antidepressant use during pregnancy, and risk of autism spectrum disorders: population based case-control study.
SourceCentre for Mental Health, Addiction and Suicide Research, School of Social and Community Medicine, University of Bristol, Bristol BS8 2BN, UK.
OBJECTIVE: To study the association between parental depression and maternal antidepressant use during pregnancy with autism spectrum disorders in offspring.
DESIGN: Population based nested case-control study.
SETTING: Stockholm County, Sweden, 2001-07.
PARTICIPANTS: 4429 cases of autism spectrum disorder (1828 with and 2601 without intellectual disability) and 43 277 age and sex matched controls in the full sample (1679 cases of autism spectrum disorder and 16 845 controls with data on maternal antidepressant use nested within a cohort (n=589 114) of young people aged 0-17 years.
MAIN OUTCOME MEASURE: A diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder, with or without intellectual disability. EXPOSURES: Parental depression and other characteristics prospectively recorded in administrative registers before the birth of the child. Maternal antidepressant use, recorded at the first antenatal interview, was available for children born from 1995 onwards.
RESULTS: A history of maternal (adjusted odds ratio 1.49, 95% confidence interval 1.08 to 2.08) but not paternal depression was associated with an increased risk of autism spectrum disorders in offspring. In the subsample with available data on drugs, this association was confined to women reporting antidepressant use during pregnancy (3.34, 1.50 to 7.47, P=0.003), irrespective of whether selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) or non-selective monoamine reuptake inhibitors were reported. All associations were higher in cases of autism without intellectual disability, there being no evidence of an increased risk of autism with intellectual disability. Assuming an unconfounded, causal association, antidepressant use during pregnancy explained 0.6% of the cases of autism spectrum disorder.
CONCLUSIONS: In utero exposure to both SSRIs and non-selective monoamine reuptake inhibitors (tricyclic antidepressants) was associated with an increased risk of autism spectrum disorders, particularly without intellectual disability. Whether this association is causal or reflects the risk of autism with severe depression during pregnancy requires further research. However, assuming causality, antidepressant use during pregnancy is unlikely to have contributed significantly towards the dramatic increase in observed prevalence of autism spectrum disorders as it explained less than 1% of cases.
Autism Linked to Parents, Grandparents
Multigenerational factors may play a role in the incidence of autism, according to U.S. and Swedish researchers.
Mothers who experienced various forms of abuse in childhood had an increased risk of having an autistic child, according to Andrea Roberts, PhD, of the Harvard School of Public Health, and colleagues.
And men who were 50 or older when one of their children was born were more likely to have a grandchild with autism, according to Emma Frans, MSc, of the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, and colleagues.
The studies, both online in JAMA Psychiatry
, appear as the CDC is reporting an increased prevalence of parent-reported autism
, driven by recent diagnoses among children with previously unrecognized disorders.
The etiology of autism isn't known, Roberts and colleagues noted, but many hypotheses focus on the perinatal period and such things as low birth weight, prematurity, and gestational diabetes.
Mothers who experienced abuse in childhood have more perinatal adverse circumstances, they added, but it is not clear if that influences their risk of having an autistic child.
To help clarify the issue, they turned to the Nurses' Health Study II, a population-based longitudinal cohort of 116,430 women that began in 1989. Participants have been followed with questionnaires every 2 years.
For this analysis, Roberts and colleagues looked at data from a subset of nearly 55,000 women who reported if they had a child with any autism spectrum disorder and who also answered a questionnaire about abuse in childhood.
The researchers stratified participants into four groups on the basis of reported physical and emotional abuse, from none to most severe, and did the same thing with sexual abuse. They also created a combined score by adding up the physical and emotional abuse and sexual abuse measures.
Overall, 451 mothers reported children with autism and 52,498 participants did not, Roberts and colleagues reported.
- The highest level of combined abuse was significantly associated (at P=0.005) with the greatest prevalence of autism, compared with women who reported no childhood abuse -- 1.8% versus 0.7%.
- Adjusted for demographic factors, the highest level of abuse was associated with a risk ratio for autism of 3.7 (95% CI 2.3 to 5.8).
- Except for low birth weight, adverse perinatal circumstances were more common among women abused in childhood.
- When the researchers adjusted for perinatal factors, the association was attenuated but only slightly – the risk ratio became 3.0 (95% CI 1.9 to 4.8) when comparing the highest abuse level with none.
Perinatal factors accounted for only a small part of the risk of autism in offspring, but Roberts and colleagues cautioned that unmeasured factors might also play a role.
They also cautioned that autism and abuse in the study were self-reported, which might have introduced bias.
In the Swedish study, Frans and colleagues noted that advancing paternal age has been linked to autism in offspring. Indeed, one recent study on people with sporadic schizophrenia or autism
found a high annual rate of new mutations in relation to paternal age.
Using the country's population-based longitudinal registers, they compared the ages of parents and grandparents at the birth of a child with or without a childhood autism diagnosis.
They were able to get parental age at birth for more than 90% of the cohort, but only able to get age of grandparents at the time of birth of the parent for 5,936 cases and 30,923 controls.
In logistic regression analyses, the risk of autism "increased monotonically" with advancing age of the grandfather, the researchers found. Specifically:
- Men who fathered a daughter when they were 50 or older – compared with those who had children when they were 20 to 24 – had an adjusted odds ratio for an autistic grandchild of 1.79 (95% CI 1.35 to 2.37, P<0 .001="" li="">
- Similarly, men who had fathered a son when they were 50 or older had an odds ratio for an autistic grandchild of 1.67 (95% CI 1.35 to 2.37, P<0 .001="" li=""> 0>0>
The findings imply that the risk of autism is multigenerational, Frans and colleagues argued, and "are consistent with mutations and/or epigenetic alterations associated with advancing paternal age."
"Older men should not be discouraged to have children based on these findings," they concluded, "but the results may be important in understanding the mechanism behind childhood autism and other psychiatric and neurodevelopmental disorders."
The study by Roberts et al. had support from the Department of Defense, the US Army Medical Research and Materiel Command, and the NIH.
The journal said the authors made no disclosures.
The study by Frans et al. was supported by the Swedish Research Council, the Swedish Council for Working Life and Social Research, and the Karolinska Institutet.
The journal said the authors made no disclosures.