Antioxidants have disease-fighting properties that protect cells from harmful free radicals. Free radicals and oxidative stress are believed to contribute adversely to aging and certain diseases such as cardiovascular disease, certain (epithelial) cancers and visual impairments (AMD and cataract), neurodegenerative diseases (e.g., Alzheimer diseases) and adult diabetes. Antioxidants work by neutralizing free radicals thus help to maintain healthy cells and immune system and reduce the risk for cancer and other diseases.
What is the source of free radicals?
Oxygen is essential for human life and metabolic processes, but it is a two-edged sword able to damage many biological molecules. Free radicals and other "reactive oxygen species" (ROS) are the byproducts of oxygen metabolism, oxidation. Free radicals are unstable molecules and freely attack the unsaturated fatty acids in cell membranes in a process called lipid oxidation. Lipid oxidation is a chain reaction, if left uncontrolled, damages cell structures including DNA and alters cell functions. Exposure to various environmental factors, including tobacco smoke and radiation, and pollutants can also lead to free radicals formation. Antioxidants slow oxidation damage.
Sources of antioxidants
Body's Defense: The body forms certain enzymatic antioxidants including superoxide dismutase (SOD), catalase, glutathione peroxidase and nonenzyme antioxidants, alpha lipoic acid and CoQ10. These are the first line of body's defense against oxidative stress. A nutritional deficiency of CoQ10 affects cardiovascular health, blood pressure, circulation and immune health. Alpha lipoic acid contributes to cellular energy production and cell health while warding off inflammation. However, the body's production of antioxidants declines with age.
Fruits & Vegetables and Supplements: Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables which are good sources of antioxidants vitamin C, vitamin E, selenium, carotenoids (lutein, lycopene, beta-carotene), polyphenols, flavonoids (such as anthocyanidins, catechins and quercitin). These antioxidants are also available in concentrated form in antioxidant supplements and herbal formulations.
If you are unable to derive adequate antioxidants protection through dietary means, consider supplementation to make up for any deficiencies. Talk to your healthcare provider about your needs.
Botanicals: Some of the most potent botanical sources of antioxidants include grape seed, pine bark (e.g., pycnogenol), acaί fruit, pomegranate fruit, mangosteen fruit, olive fruit, bilberry, and green tea.
Current Useful Research Reports: