What Are Antioxidants, And Do You Need to Take Them as Supplements? - Deepstash
What Are Antioxidants, And Do You Need to Take Them as Supplements?

What Are Antioxidants, And Do You Need to Take Them as Supplements?

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What Are Antioxidants, And Do You Need to Take Them as Supplements?

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What Are Antioxidants?

Antioxidants are chemicals that interfere with oxidation.

In the context of a healthy diet, antioxidants are substances found in food items that help shield biological molecules such as DNA from this potentially destructive activity:

  • These substances include vitamins like vitamin C and vitamin E, trace elements such as selenium and zinc, and other common plant compounds such as lycopene and flavonoids.
  • A diet that includes a reasonable mix of fruit, nuts, vegetables, and mushrooms should contain sufficient antioxidants to guard our cellular machinery against oxidative stress. 

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How does oxidation harm our bodies?

Oxidative damage occurs when an electron is stolen from an important biochemical structure, such as a base in a genetic code or the amino acids making up proteins. 

Simple changes to DNA can transform a base into something different, altering its behavior so it no longer spells out the same sequence.

While our bodies have repair mechanisms that can account for these damaging changes, as we age the problems can pile up. Mutations get missed, aggregations of proteins build, and risks of diseases like cancer or even neurodegenerative conditions like Parkinson's increase. 

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What causes oxidative stress?

Our bodies naturally produce a range of chemical products called free radicals as a consequence of typical metabolic processes.

To deal with these reactive species, our bodies also produce enzymes with antioxidant properties, like superoxide dismutase.

But our environment can also be a source of free radicals. Absorbing pollutants, including cigarette smoke and toxic metals, can overwhelm our bodies' home-grown defenses and increase oxidative damage.

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Do you need antioxidant supplements?

Between our own enzymes and the antioxidants we collect in our diet, our body is as well prepared for keeping a lid on oxidative stress as it can be.

Unfortunately, adding more antioxidants to the mix isn't the solution we might imagine.

  • More importantly, studies over the decades have found no sign that antioxidant supplements can reduce risks of ill health or combat aging.

Further research is needed to figure out why supplementary antioxidants don't seem to reduce oxidative stress in the body and what possibly can.

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