Many supplements stores, both online and on the high street, offer antioxidant supplements which claim to reduce free radical damage to improve health. A brief description is often offered, with free radicals often labelled as “bad” and damaging to the body, and therefore consuming antioxidant supplements and foods are vital. So, what’s the deal with these free radicals and the so called damage they are causing our bodies? And, is there any way we can prevent damage, with antioxidants?
I came across a great site regarding healthy foods called foodasfood.com, and they include a good small review of free radicals. Also mentioned is why consuming fruit and vegetables is important to ensure a wide spectrum of micronutrients to reduce free radical damage. I recommend taking a look at the above mini article if you want a brief one minute outline of free radicals and antioxidants, below is a little more details regarding free radicals.
What are free radicals?
Free radicals are unstable molecules which have an odd number of electrons and therefore try to capture another electron from another molecule to become stable. While the molecule is now stable, the molecule which had its electron stolen is now a free radical itself due to not having the desired number of electrons to make the molecule stable. This situation obviously results in a chain reaction in which each newly created free radical seeks an electron to steal to make itself stable, whilst creating a free radical itself.
This process occurs naturally, and the human body performs this task in some situations for our benefit, such as when fighting off infection. Free radical formation and its damaging chain reaction can also be breed from negative factors such as smoking, radiation and intense exercise. When this damage is excessive it is said antioxidants should be consumed to curb the free radical damage. For those who seek optimal health, antioxidants are often supplemented to reduce free radicals, with damage caused by free radicals also ever increasing with age.
Antioxidants claim to increase health by decreasing free radical damage by offering an electron to the free radical molecule, so it does not have to steal an electron from a fellow molecule. The two common vitamins mentioned are Vitamin C and Vitamin E. Of course, many supplement companies have formulated supplements which claim to contain the most effective antioxidant substances, therefore offering an easy “all in one” solution to consumers.
The effectiveness of antioxidants at improving health is questioned, however. It is often claimed the antioxidants are very effective, yet a lot of the time the ones making this claim are the ones who are trying to sell the supplements to the consumer. Some research I came across actually shows antioxidant supplementation is a whole different light. An article on scienceblog.com illustrates how studies have shown antioxidant supplement users do not live any longer, and in fact supplementation could possibly increase the risk of death.
All very confusing. Likelihood is you are left with the same thoughts as me – puzzled! With the above information in mind I would conclude the best option for improving health via dietary intake would be to include a varied selection of fruit and vegetables within the diet. Fruit and vegetables contain plenty of nutrients and natural substances which are of vital importance to us, so sticking to the natural route would be the choice for me. I would love to hear your thoughts on antioxidants and supplementation to reduce free radical damage.