What are Antioxidants?
Antioxidants are chemical compounds or molecules that indirectly protect cells. As the name suggests, it is clear that these work against oxidation. Basically, antioxidants prevent oxidation that produces harmful free radicals that get accumulated in cells and affect the cells as well as their activities. Free radical production in our body is unavoidable as these are the byproducts of various metabolic activities. These free radicals have unpaired free electrons that make them highly reactive.
Our body produces an enzyme, called superoxidase dismutase (SOD), which renders electrons to the free radicals and make them harmless. Our body produces this enzyme in small quantities, so when there are large quantities of free radicals in the cells, our body uses antioxidants in addition to SOD to neutralize these free radicals and protect cells. Only CoenzymeQ10 and Glutathione are the antioxidants that are produced in the human body, while the rest others are obtained from the diet.
Thus, it can be said that antioxidants provide a complex protection system to the body. Some of the major antioxidants are Vitamin E, Vitamin C, carotenoids, lipoic acid, zinc, selenium, and even proteins like albumin, ferritin and so on. Antioxidants can either be naturally occurring or can be synthesized artificially.
What are the Sources of Antioxidants?
- Antioxidants are present in abundance in fresh fruits, vegetables and beverages. For all ages, it is important to have fruits and vegetables in the regular diet as it decreases the risk of several diseases by providing us with abundant nutrients as well as loads of antioxidants. Green and yellow vegetables containing vitamin C, beta-carotene, and vitamin E are rich in antioxidants. Vitamin C is a water-soluble antioxidant that neutralizes the reactive oxygen supplement (ROS) and stabilizes molecules before they react further. On the other hand, vitamin E is lipid soluble and prevents lipid peroxidation.
- Blueberries, blackberries, elderberries, cranberries, pecans, dark chocolates, coffee, black tea, oats, ripe banana, red wine, watermelon, beans, brown rice, fish, egg, broccoli, lemon, nuts are rich sources of antioxidants. Some herbs and spices, like cloves, cinnamon, oregano, turmeric, cocoa, parsley, basil, ginger, thyme are good sources of antioxidants.
- Enzymes are the source of antioxidants in the human body; glutathione peroxidase, catalyze and superoxide dismutase. But they are only effective with the presence of some essential micronutrients such as iron, led, zinc, selenium, manganese. Insufficient dietary intake of these micronutrients may cause low antioxidant activity.
Some synthetic antioxidants are available in the industry for the preservation of oil. Since oil. are the source of fat these get oxidized easily and turn rancid and to prevent this, artificial antioxidants like Butylated Hydroxy Anisole, Butylated Hydroxy Toluene, Tertiary Butylhydroquinone, Propyl Gallate etc. are added to them.ADVERTISEMENT
Why do we need antioxidants?
Antioxidants cannot restore cell damage, but they can prevent cells from the damage of free radicles. They work as cell protectors and thus act as good skin care elements when present in cosmetic products.
- In skin care products, they work in three steps; their stability and concentration in the product and then how they get absorbed into the skin. According to dermatologists, Astaxanthin along with vitamin E and beta-carotene are the most powerful combination to protect skin from free radicals and UV rays.
- Antioxidant-rich diet could be helpful to reduce the risk of Alzheimer Disease (AD). The most famous controversy about antioxidant is, it prevents AD. It is a proven fact that AD is associated with widespread damage to brain cells caused by oxidative damage, absolutely related to aging.
- Antioxidants also protect bones, eyes and kidneys and all the organs related to the metabolic system such as liver, pancreas.
- Consumption of antioxidants also reduces the risk of pulmonary dysfunction, arthritis, colitis, Parkinson’s disease etc.
Antioxidants Fight Against Free-radicals:
Despite being an essential element for humans or for that matter all living things, oxygen plays a negative role for its highly reactive nature. They can be part of harmful molecule and able to set free the damaging particles called “free-radicals”. These free-radicals are unstable because they contain unpaired (a pair of free electron) electron. To become stable, they attack any stable molecule and capture their electron by making them unstable and this process further continues like a chain reaction. This process makes thousands and millions of electrons free within a few seconds to few minutes, begins with the very first reaction.
These free radicals attack healthy cells and cause diseases such as skin cancer, heart diseases, poor brain function, immunity diseases etc. Antioxidants restrict this process and built a complex protection system in human body.
Antioxidants in Dietary Supplements:
- Dietary supplement for antioxidants is a field under research since 2005. it includes mainly plant-based herbal dietary supplements including seed extracts of grapes and berries. Though the domain is expanding with respect to research and marketing as well, still a lot of research has to be undertaken in terms of physiology and pharmacology regarding their long-term effects.
- Experts advise having fruits and vegetables instead of dietary supplements, for antioxidants as only one or two antioxidants could not protect the body immunity system. Since the intake limit of antioxidants is still under study, an overdose of supplements might be harmful. Because the available supplements are either with a limited source or products of limited research that how it works.
- Some dietary supplements are restricted to pregnant or breastfeeding women as they might be harmful to their conventional medicines. Experts suggest consulting doctor before consuming any one or combination of dietary supplements during pregnancy.
- All the dietary supplement brands are available in the market, with same or different composition, don’t secure the same quality. There are possibilities of side-effects such as allergic reaction, irritations from dietary supplements, as all the brands don’t follow the ideal standards of manufacturing.
Pros and Cons of Antioxidants:
Different benefits from different sources of antioxidants:
Carotenoids are plant pigments that convert into vitamin A (retinol, retinyl and retinoic acid) in a human body and protects skin and eye; restricts uneven skin tone, rough skin, fine lines, wrinkles etc. Beta-carotene lowers the risks of heart diseases. One must include it in a regular dietary chart in a controlled way for better health.
Microscopic blue-green algae that include a variety of antioxidants and micronutrients which is beneficial for brain cell protection and immunity system. It contains protein, calcium (26 times more than milk), iron, zinc, selenium, chromium, magnesium, copper, potassium, sodium, manganese and Vitamin B(1, 2, 3, 6, 9). only 20 calories of spirulina are equivalent to 4 grams of protein. It protects every body part with its different active nutrients.
Red colored nutrition pigment the prevents cancer and heart disease. It slows the growth rate of breast and prostate cancer. It does restrict the kidney tumors and uterine cancer. Lycopene protects oral and vaginal health from yeast infection It is also effective to secure eye health. Tomatoes are the best source of lycopene.
Another plant pigment that works as an anti-inflammatory agent. It is beneficial for the cardiovascular and nervous system. They reduce the risk of heart attack by lowering bad cholesterol in blood. Researches have proved that regular intake of flavonoids reduces the risk of cancer(s) in human.
Vitamin E or tocopherol is the fat-soluble vitamin that effectively works for skin betterment. It protects skin from the UV light exposure. It balances blood cholesterol level and hormones, protects the body immunity system, repairs damaged skin cells and brighten dull skin, thickens hair, improves vision and muscles, prevents cancer and Alzheimer’s disease and supports the growth development system.
Vitamin C or ascorbic acid is the most important anti-aging element. It improves uneven skin and brightens dull skin. For best result, the concentration should be kept within 5-20%. it is a multitasking antioxidant that prevents scurvy, common cold, heart diseases, lowers hypertension, cures lead toxicity, inhibits cataracts, boosts immunity system, improved mood swings, repair wounds, fight against strokes, controls asthma, diabetes.
It is a fat-soluble vitamin with excellent antioxidant properties. It protects eye health, supports the immunity system, skin cell growth, fights against inflammation, prevents cancer and heart diseases. A pregnant woman needs the vitamin A in abundance on a regular basis. It also inhibits respiratory infections.
Proteins and peptides
Proteins restrict the lipid oxidation by producing peptides that deactivate the highly active oxygen species.
It is a carotenoid that protects eye health. It restricts clouds in the lens caused by free-radicals. Lutein neutralizes free-radicals and cleanses cataracts. It supports protection against eye disorders, skin health, lowers the risks of diabetes, heart diseases even cancer(s). it also works as an anti-inflammatory molecule.
It reduces risk of nuclear cataract in human eyes. It also strongly protects human eyes from UV-activity. It is also an effective skin moisturizer. It supports immunity functions, brain activity and protects brain health. It also fights against fatigue.
It is the most important detoxifier of the human body. Glutathione adsorbs all the toxic materials generated in the body and carries them into the biles and discharge from the body as stool. It is also an element that protects body immunity system.
It is an important anti-aging dietary antioxidant that is beneficial to prevent pulmonary, cardiovascular, osteoporosis diseases.
This essential oil is a master antioxidant that protects the human body from a dozen of severe diseases. It works for body immunity system, menstruation problem of women, oral health as an antiseptic, cold and flu as an antibiotic, digestive and skin solutions, osteoporosis, arthritis as a pain killer. It is also a preventive against cancer.
is the kitchen for plants and also an antioxidant. Type a and b inhibits oxidation and restricts DNA damage. It also protects lipid and protein and peptides from oxidation.
Besides aroma therapy, lavender essential oil is too an antioxidant. It reduce anxiety, emotional stress, skin roughness, headache. It improves diabetes, sleep, brain function and pain.
It is an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory intracellular molecule that restricts carcinogenic progression and tumour initiation. It also protects DNA from modification by free radicals.
Combination of micronutrients
Micronutrients such as selenium, zinc, copper, iron, chromium, magnesium, manganese, aluminium are essention in human body to support the immunity system affordd by antioxidants. They don’t work as antioxidants but nourishes the antioxidant activities those are extremely benificial for health.
Safety measures of antioxidants:
Though they are extremely important for the protection of our cells antioxidants when taken in high concentrations can do more harm than good in our body. Antioxidants work best when we get our daily requirement from our diet by consuming fresh colorful fruits and vegetables. But if people are taking these in form of supplements then one has to be very careful about the toxicity of these supplements.
- High dose intake of beta-carotene increases the risk of lung cancer among smokers.
- Excessive dose of it may result in prostate cancer and stroke.
- Vitamin E supplement could increase the risk of bleeding among people who take medicines for anticoagulating (thinning of blood) treatment
- Pregnant and breastfeeding women are recommended not to take antioxidant dietary supplements.
- Always ask a doctor before consuming antioxidant dietary supplements along with conventional medicine.
Uses in Aging Treatments:
As an effective cell protector, antioxidants are very useful for antiaging treatment. They boost the formation of collagen that rapids growth of new cells. Important antioxidants are:
- Vitamin E
- Green tea
- Coffee berry
- Grape Seed
- Vitamin C
FAQs: What people normally want to know about antioxidants?
1. What are food supplements?
Food supplement products include tablets, capsules, syrups, powders etc. which have health-building properties. These foods are composed of micronutrients such as vitamins, minerals extracted from herbs and plants.
2. Why do people consume dietary supplements?
Sometimes higher level of certain nutrients could be essential for keeping our system healthy or they can be part of conventional treatment for curing a medical problem Also, these supplements, certain doses, can be useful to prevent some diseases and illness.
3. What kind of quality control can be applied to food supplements?
First of all, a supplement should be advised by the practitioner. Secondly, long-term and high level of food supplement could be harmful. Thirdly, it must be approved by food or pharmaceutical Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) of different countries. Fourthly, all the supplements must have children resistant packaging.
4. Are Antioxidants Safe with Conventional Drugs?
If someone is under medication, then it must be checked with a doctor before consuming antioxidants. Intake of vitamin E with an anticoagulant drug could be harmful. Consumption of supplement during pregnancy is strictly permissible by the doctor.
5. Is there any limit to the intake of antioxidants?
Limited intake of anti-aging supplements results in healthy old age. Antioxidants are clinically proved antiaging elements, though there is no scientific evidence whether these have a positive effect on mortality rate.
6. Do antioxidants influence gene?
Some laboratory research points to the fact that combination of antioxidants is able to slow down the gene activation process related to the aging of cells. Research has also shown that antioxidants reduce the oxidation damage to DNA structures thereby stabilizing them.
7. What are Free-radicals?
Free-radicals are byproducts of cellular metabolism and have unstable electrons of oxygen atoms. Due to their highly reactive nature, the electrons attack some stable molecules and neutralize themselves by making them unstable. This process is called oxidation. This process continues in a chain reaction manner and causes oxidative stress in cells which in turn causes pathology in cells.
8. Are antioxidants treatment for Alzheimer’s disease?
The role of antioxidants in the treatment of Alzheimer’s is still a debatable question. It is a proven fact that AD is related to brain cell damage due to aging. It is thought that antioxidants have antiaging properties, so scientists are looking at antioxidants as potential drugs to stop brain aging and thereby help AD patients.