Free radicals are known to cause aging and diseases like cancer, heart disease, decline in immune system and many others. But our bodies are designed to naturally combat it. The formation of free radicals is controlled by beneficial compounds known as antioxidants which can stabilize or deactivate a free radical before they can attack healthy cells.
Antioxidants can be both man-made or naturally occurring with the primary function of preventing or delaying damage to a cell as a result of oxidation (a chemical reaction when combined with oxygen).
There are two main uses of anti-oxidants(AO) which are derived depending on its source.
- Industrial chemicals are synthetically made which are added to food products to prevent oxidation. Long before this, Aboriginals of North America were using natural antioxidants to preserve red meats by rubbing in blueberries which kept it from being rancid for weeks.
- Natural chemicals from plants are a good source of AO which gives us some beneficial health effects.
Examples of this naturally occurring sources are vitamin C, vitamin E and beta carotene which has been found to remove the potential damage of oxidizing agents in humans.
Vitamin C and E Importance
In particular, vitamin C is the most important water-soluble antioxidant found in extracellular fluids (all body fluid environment outside of the cells). This neutralizes the natural by-product of oxygen, especially in a liquid environment, before it can attack the cell, like lipids for instance. Fruits and vegetables are a major source of Vitamin C.
Benefits and Usage
Antioxidants can help fight against free radicals which are capable of attacking healthy cells.
Contrary to the water soluble vitamin C, vitamin E is the most important antioxidant in a lipid or fatty environment. It acts as a chain breaking element within the cell membrane (outside barrier of the cell) which protects the fatty acid membrane from lipid per-oxidation. You can obtain vitamin E from whole grains, nuts, and high quality vegetable oil. You can even still get some from fruit (avocado) and vegetables.
It is a good thing to know that antioxidants can heal or regenerate its fellow antioxidant. For example, vitamin C can regenerate vitamin E which in turn works in synergy with beta carotene and other carotenoids. Do not forget liquids such as Coffee and especially Green Tea are both known to have high amounts and studies have shown benefits as part of one’s diet if you have Eczema.
But by far, the most popular usage is a dietary supplement. Common ones that has been prepared as food supplements (aside from vitamins C, E and beta carotene) are lutein, lycopene, selenium and vitamin A. As mention before,
Best Way to Get Anti-Oxidants
The downside of food supplements enriched with anti-oxidants or purees such as Sea Buckthorn is that they can be costly. The cheapest way to nourish your body is by eating vegetables which are the main source of naturally occurring antioxidants. Studies also show that eating a vegetable and fruit rich diet lowers the risk of common diseases.
While we know the benefits, taking too much of it can also be hazardous to your health. High dosage of antioxidant supplements can be linked to health problems. If you are a smoker, high concentrations of beta carotene can increase the risk of lung cancer. For men, increased vitamin E intake may increase the risk of prostate cancer and stroke. You should also note that antioxidant supplements will interact with the medicines you are taking. So, it is best to see your doctor before taking any supplements.