Supplementing critically ill surgical patients with antioxidant vitamins C and E reduced risk of organ failure, ventilator support, and length of intensive care unit (ICU) stay, according to the results of a randomized, prospective trial published in the December, 2002 issue of the Annals of Surgical outcomesSurgery.

Oxidative stress is a term that describes potential damage from chemical oxidizers. In simple terms an oxidizer fires a chemical “bullet”, actually an electron, that can damage tissue. Antioxidant nutrients, like vitamins C and E are like chemical “bullet-proof” vests that protect the body.

Oxidative stress has been associated with the development of the acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) and organ failure through direct tissue injury and activation of genes integral to the inflammatory response,” write Avery B. Nathens, MD, from the University of Washington, and colleagues. The researcher also say that the depletion of antioxidant nutrients as been associated with nosocomial (hospital-caused) infections. The authors further state that giving antioxidant nutritents (vitamins C and E), reduces the incidence of organ failure and reduces the amount of time spent in ICU. This is an inexpensive treatment and one that does not have any adverse side-effects.