Antioxidants Supplements: Antioxidants and Free Radicals
Antioxidants are widely used in dietary supplements and have been researched and found for the prevention of diseases such as cancer, coronary heart disease and even altitude sickness. Although initial studies suggested that antioxidant supplements might promote health, later large clinical trials with a limited number of antioxidants detected no benefit and even suggested that excess supplementation with certain putative antioxidants may be harmful. Antioxidants also have many industrial uses, such as preservatives in food and cosmetics and to prevent the degradation of rubber and gasoline.
There are many great natural sources of antioxidants and they include fruits (particularly tomatoes and grapes), vegetables, tuna and oily fish (containing essential fatty acids) and even wine. Getting your antioxidants from a natural source is preferable to supplementing your diet as you will this way be more likely to absorb the antioxidants, and at the same time it will mean you can benefit from many other positive attributes in these foods – such as protein in fish or other vitamins and fiber in fruits and vegetables.
However if you are not getting as many antioxidants as you would like from your diet then supplementing is certainly a good way to make sure you do get them. While many supplements will do a good job (including a good old fashioned multi-vitamin as vitamin C is an antioxidant). This substance is not only an antioxidant but is also responsible for increasing the function of the mitochondria – which directly surround the cell and convert glucose into ATP. Because the mitochondria surround the cells these can further protect the cells from damage by free radicals and so prevent damage and mutation.
Free Radicals an Anti-Oxidants
Every single cell has a nucleus in its centre which contains our DNA. This DNA is the 'blueprint' that the body has for instructing our cells where to go and for ensuring that each cell functions correctly and accurately. When these cells split you are in theory left with two identical cells with identical DNA and that means that you could live on endlessly by recycling old cells. However this isn't precisely what happens, and instead you end up with imperfect copies that are a result of many different factors and which cause the cells to function not quite optimally and often to be visibly different from the way they were intended.
Free radicals are one of the reasons that these imperfections exist and also that cells die in the first place. Free radicals are reactive chemicals in the body which can damage the cells and are a result of oxidization of the very air we breathe in in order to keep us alive. These free radicals are lose in our bodies and will travel around colliding with our cell walls causing visible damage. For the skin cells this can become visibly obvious when enough damage has been done and result in the appearance of wrinkles and lines. As our mitosis slows down as we get older and eventually stops (due to the shortening of the telomeres at the end of DNA strands after each mitosis), this results in more visible lines and wrinkles in our faces as a result of free radicals causing the damage.
However where the real problem lies is when the free radicals manage to breach the cell walls and to affect the actual DNA. When this happens the free radicals can damage the actual genetic code which determines the placement and behavior of our cells (mutation) and this results in those cells being cancerous. If the cancerous cells are detected by the body's natural immune systems then they will be destroyed, but if they are not then they can continue to spread through body causing widespread damage and resulting ultimately in death.
Thus the role of antioxidants is to block free radicals from occurring by preventing the oxidization of other molecules, thus meaning that there are fewer in the body and thus meaning that they are less likely to cause so much damage to the individual cells and DNA. This of course then result in less visible cumulative cell damage in the skin (meaning fewer wrinkles) and can also protect against cancer.
Of course antioxidants are not going to completely prevent damage to your cells and there will always be free radical damage occurring in your body. However they can certainly helps and getting them in your diet one way or another is a good idea – and particularly if you are an athlete of some sort as during athletic activity oxidization is multiplied around ten times.
1) Antioxidants Supplements