Safety checks have been carried out on synthetic antioxidants for their use in food. Although antioxidants are used extensively in food, their safety has still been a matter of concern. There are two conditions for its safety. The first condition is that LD50 that is lethal dose 50 must not be less than 100mg/kg of the body weight. The second condition is that there should not be any considerable effect on the growth of the test animal at a level 100 times greater than that proposed for consumption by humans.
What happens when antioxidants are taken in high concentrations?
Antioxidants are not safe when taken in high concentrations. This is because antioxidants not only undergo reaction with free radicals but also with other molecules which in turn produce extra free radical. Naturally produced antioxidants function better than artificial ones. Their consumption in high doses can be toxic to the body.
Safety issue associated with antioxidants
Nerve damage is one of the major safety issue associated with the use of antioxidants. At high concentrations, antioxidants may be toxic. In-depth toxicology studies have to be conducted for their cancer-causing ability as well disturbing the development of embryo when taken in high doses. Antioxidants have BHT in them which has a negative effect on kidney, lungs and liver when taken in high concentrations. BHT is cytotoxic in nature i.e. it is toxic to living cells. Some studies reveal that synthetic antioxidants have some beneficial effects like anti-carcinogenic properties.
Are natural antioxidants safer than synthetic ones?
Some foods are good sources of antioxidants. Plants are rich in phytonutrients and antioxidants. Green tea which contains catechin, turmeric which contains curcumin and red wine which has resveratrol are good sources of antioxidants. Some antioxidants are produced in the human body like coenzyme Q10. The requirements vary depending on age, gender, stress levels etc. Antioxidants produced naturally i.e. the ones got from our diet are safer than those used as supplements. Not only natural antioxidants are safe but also beneficial for the human body. Synthetic antioxidants may not be as beneficial.
What is the safe limit for intake of antioxidants?
The intake of antioxidant supplements should be between 100 to 200 IU, selenium 100 to 200mcg, lycopene 15,000 IU. Children till the age of 12 should not be given more than 50% of the dosage as recommended for adults. Children more than the age of 13 can take as much as is recommended for adults.
What are the risks associated with consumption of antioxidants?
Sometimes antioxidants may become pro-oxidants that are they make or form free radicals. Some of the antioxidants like quercetin, ferulic acid cause kidney cancers. These antioxidants are used in dietary supplements. Laboratory experiments conducted on rats concluded that quercetin, when fed to rats, causes an aggravated form of cancers. Quercetin should not be taken by healthy individuals.
Are antioxidant supplements effective?
Taking antioxidants from a diet, rich in fruits and vegetables is more effective than supplements. Antioxidants taken in supplement form can be harmful. Supplements should be consumed only under the supervision of a doctor. Antioxidants in supplement form can cause allergies, and can also interact with other medicines.
Are there any prescriptions for daily intake of antioxidants?
Daily intake of antioxidants should be 8000 to 11000 units. It is not the number of fruits but the quality matters. There are different types of antioxidants and consuming them in right quantities is beneficial for health.
Thus, antioxidants are useful only when taken within prescribed limits. Its use must be discontinued if allergic reactions like rashes, itching etc. persists.