Some vitamins, such as A, C and E, are antioxidants, which help prevent cell damage in the body. Oxidative cell damage is caused when ‘free radicals’ attack cells in the body. This type of attack is called oxidation: it harms cells and, among other things, may weaken the immune system. Free radicals are formed in the body as by-products when the body converts oxygen into energy, and by environmental causes. Antioxidants prevent oxidation by getting rid of free radicals before damage occurs. Fruits and vegetables are notable sources of antioxidants.
A recent Danish study looked at whether fruit and veg or a vitamin supplement was more effective, by comparing three groups of people: one on a fruit and veg diet, one taking supplements and one taking a placebo.
It found that both the fruit-and-veg and supplement groups had less cell damage than the placebo group, but the fruit-and-veg eaters fared best of all, with significantly less damage than those in the supplement group.