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Home > Antioxidants

Antioxidant Supplements

What are antioxidants? What do they do?

Antioxidants help to protect our body from free radicals.  They are also known as free radical scavengers.  Free radicals are compounds that have an uneven number of electrons.  They are unbalanced and reactive, and would attempt to gain stability by stealing an electron from other compounds.  Free radicals can damage DNA, protein, and fats, causing many degenerative diseases such as aging, cardiovascular diseases, immune dysfunction and cancer. 

Free radicals are produced by different means, including external and internal factors.  External factors include radiation, UV, environmental pollutants, cigarette smoke, bad diet (frying foods).  Internal events such as immune cell activity and respiration also produce free radicals. The most dangerous free radicals are  superoxide radicals (O2˙-) and hydroxyl radicals (OH˙). Other free radicals include the peroxyl radicals (RO2˙) and the alkoxyl radicals (RO˙), both are involved in the oxidative damage to fats.

Antioxidants protect the body from free radical damage by giving up one of its electrons to free radicals or DNA and fatty acids that have lost an electron, thus neutralizing the damaging effect.  Since we are bombarded by large number of free radicals each day, we have to maintain an ample supply of antioxidants to protect ourselves from free radical damage.

 

Sources of antioxidants

Our body produces many natural antioxidant compounds, including superoxide dismutase (SOD), catalase,  glutathione peroxidase, glutathione, proteins and uric acid.  We can also obtain antioxidants such as flavonoids, vitamins C & E, beta-carotene from the diet.  Foods high in antioxidants are fruits, vegetables, tea and herbs. 

Most people think of vitamins A, C & E as strong antioxidants.  But in fact, other antioxidants such as superoxide dismutase, glutathione, alpha-lipoic acid, N-acetylcysteine (NAC), flavonoids, curcumin, lignans have much stronger antioxidant activity than these vitamins. These compounds can convert free radicals to inert or even useful substances without becoming free radicals themselves.  They can also restore the antioxidant properties of vitamins A, C & E after these vitamins have donated their electrons to free radicals. 

Selenium and zinc are not antioxidants themselves but are integral components of antioxidant enzymes, therefore, these minerals also play an important role in our defense against free radical damage.

 

Which antioxidant supplements should you use?

Although vitamins A, C & E are antioxidants that play first line defense against free radical damage, they can become free radicals themselves once they give up one of their electrons. These oxidized vitamins have to be regenerated by other antioxidants (other vitamins or antioxidant compounds). Therefore, It is better to consume a combination of antioxidant compounds instead of a high dose of single vitamin.

The most popular antioxidant supplements include vitamins A (beta-carotene), C & E, green tea extract (EGCG), alpha-lipoic acid, N-acetylcysteine (NAC), oligomeric proanthocyanidins (OPC, grape seed extract), curcumin (turmeric), silymarin (milk thistle), superoxide dismutase, zinc and selenium.

 

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Popular brands: Enzymatic Therapy Supplements, Garden of Life Vitamins, New Chapter Vitamins, Natrol Vitamins, Nature's Plus Vitamins, Nature's Way Vitamins, Now Foods Vitamins

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