”The amount of antioxidants in your body is directly proportional to how long you will live."
- Dr. Richard Cutler, former Director of the National Institute of Aging, Washington
Antioxidants are the nutritional equivalent of man's best friend - they are loyal protectors and nurturers of our cells, repelling disease, and promoting good health. Antioxidants can come from healthy eating or in the form of supplements, and they include a family of naturally formed components like vitamin A, beta-carotene, lycopene, vitamin E, and more. They are believed to protect cells from free radicals, harmful oxygen molecules thought to damage cells that result in cancer, atherosclerosis, Alzheimer's disease, and rheumatoid arthritis, and they may be the underlying reason why we age.
Free radicals are formed naturally in the body, but their production is increased by factors such as smoking, alcohol, air pollution, infection, stress, excessive sunlight, and toxins like radiation and asbestos.
It’s ironic that the oxygen we need to survive is also the catalyst for the production of free radicals. When an oxygen molecule (O2) becomes electrically charged or “radicalized” it tries to steal electrons from other molecules, causing damage to the cell’s DNA. Over time, such damage may become irreversible and lead to disease. The job of antioxidants is to “mop up” free radicals, meaning that they neutralize their electrical charge and prevent the free radical from taking electrons from other molecules.
Even the healthiest among us have some free radicals in our systems, but when free excessive radicals are formed in the body, the harmful condition known as oxidative stress occurs, possibly leading to disease.
Antioxidants can also slow some of the physical signs of aging by minimizing wrinkles and preserving skin's natural “glow”. Some studies also suggest that antioxidant supplements help protect skin from sun damage. German researchers found that 1,000 IU’s of vitamin E and 2,000mg of vitamin C daily for eight days boosted resistance to sunburn by 20%. Other research found a mixture of beta-carotene, lycopene and lutein - three potent antioxidants - taken for three months also reduced incidence of mild sunburn.
Supplementing with antioxidants will help balance your antioxidant load, one of the best ways to get your antioxidants is in food that you eat. In short, a regular diet rich in antioxidants will help keep you healthy, inside and out.
- Beckman KB, Ames BN. The free radical theory of aging matures. Physiol Rev. 1998 Apr;78(2):547-81.
- Eberlein-Konig B, Placzek M, Przybilla B. Protective effect against sunburn of combined systemic ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and d-alpha-tocopherol (vitamin E). J Am Acad Dermatol. 1998 Jan;38(1):45-8.
- Steck-Scott S, Arab L, Craft NE, Samet JM. Plasma and lung macrophage responsiveness to carotenoid supplementation and ozone exposure in humans. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2004 Dec;58(12):1571-9.
Third Party Links (Articles, Videos and Reference)
- Dr. Cass explains the Benefits of Antioxidants in this Video
- The Antioxidant Miracle book on Amazon
- Antioxidants and Cancer Prevention Fact Sheet from National Cancer Institute
- Very good chart of classes of antioxidant foods and what they contain
Wider & Alternative Perspectives