A review by the Australian Heart Foundation (AHF) of more than 100 international studies on antioxidants over the past ten years puts to rest the popular belief that red wine, coffee and chocolate can keep cardiovascular problems at bay.
The Heart Foundation's national director of healthy weight, Susan Anderson, stated, ''The evidence is just not there in terms of prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease.
''We're concerned about people thinking that in having red wine or dark chocolate that they are actually doing something to treat or prevent cardiovascular disease when the evidence doesn't support that.”
Some findings of the review
According to experts, antioxidants that are easily absorbed and shield cells from damage by free-radicals (known to cause a host of degenerative diseases and cancers) are present in fresh fruits, veggies, whole grains, legumes, cereals, nuts, seeds and green or black tea.
The antioxidant benefits of vitamins E and C supplements also failed to garner the approval of the Heart Foundation.
The best way to get all the antioxidants the body requires is through a balanced and healthy diet. Anderson advises people to consume at least two portions of fruits and five servings of vegetables to remain healthy.
"Chocolate, coffee and red wine are OK as part of a balanced diet. But these findings confirm that if you're consuming them thinking you're reducing your risk of heart disease, then think again.
"The best way to get enough antioxidants is to eat a variety of plant-based foods such as vegetables, fruit, legumes, wholegrain breads and cereals, nuts and seeds every day," said Anderson.
Antioxidants in chocolate, coffee and tea
According to researchers, though raw cocoa is loaded with the goodness of antioxidants, the health benefits are lost in the process of manufacturing chocolate.
Coming to coffee, the researchers stated that a cup of the beverage is enriched with antioxidants but it also contains oils which raise the ''bad'' LDL cholesterol.
Anderson further explained that though the oils in coffee can be stripped off with paper and metal filtering and also in instant coffee, they are present in the boiled brew such as Turkish and Greek coffees.
“If you make coffee with a plunger or if you're boiling it on a stove top, then it will still contain the oil and that will raise the LDL cholesterol…So for people who consume a few coffees a day, that's quite important,” Anderson said.
On the other hand, unlike coffee, tea helped in cutting the risk of heart attack. The benefits were enhanced further when served with less milk or with low or no fat variety.
Anderson said the findings of the review would be made available to doctors, nutritionists and other professionals to pass on the information to patients in order to dispel the hype surrounding the benefits of dark chocolate, wine and coffee.