Background In 2001, the British Nutrition Foundation (BNF) was contracted to evaluate projects from the Antioxidants in Food research programme, now funded by the Food Standards Agency and previously the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. The programme aimed at testing the ‘antioxidant hypothesis’.
Methods The evaluation was conducted with support and guidance from a Steering Group of experts. The final report sets out BNF's recommendations for the future of the Antioxidants in Food research programme.
Results It was recommended that future research should consider a wider scope of potential mechanisms of action of substances within foods; more emphasis should be placed on studying bioavailability of a range of plant derived substances, and the impact of genotype, age and disease should be investigated.
Conclusions The research programme has been important as it has focused attention on disease prevention rather than on treatment, and has helped progress identification of biomarkers. From human observational and intervention studies there is evidence of an association between a diet rich in plant foods (particularly fruit and vegetables) and health benefits. However, as there is no evidence that any particular nutrient or class of bioactive substances makes a special contribution, currently the most prudent public health advice is to increase vegetable and fruit consumption.