The practice of taking a one a day vitamin to ward off malnutrition has now been replaced by antioxidant supplements. 7 out of 10 americans are now taking antioxidants to stave off cancer. Numerous information and misinformation online and word of mouth from friends , or from so called nutritionist, newsletters from vitamin manufactures advising the public to buy this and that type of antioxidant to prevent heart disease,enhance the immune system and prevent cancer.
Because antioxidant is an over the counter supplements the tendency to mismanage the dose occurs. The famous adage” if one is good more is better” ,can be disastrous to ones health.
The body is in constant attack from free radicals contained in the air we breath, the food we eat,the water we drink,the cigarette we smoke or we inhale from others,nitrates in the food we eat, free radicals formed when fats from the grilled meat burns (nitrous oxide) consumption of rancid fat (unrefrigerated food with fat) the by product of ones own protein breakdown, aflatoxin from peanuts and other legumes (mold results when legumes are improperly dried) all aspect of the environment , which includes fragments of oxygen such as peroxide and superperoxides,which is the commonly identified free radicals. Air pollution,combustion, radiations,viruses, and illness we get when we come in contact with people or when we consumed improperly handled food in restaurant and eateries, eating leftovers passed the safe time.
Do we need antioxidants if we eat a balance diet? The answer is yes and no. Antioxidants are produced by the body or present in food. These nutrients can prevent or slow down oxidation processes in our body. When our body cells uses oxygen , the by product from these processes are free radicals which can cause damage to our body. Free radicals have an extra electrical charge that causes them to seek out other substances in the body in order to neutralize themselves. This initial reaction neutralize the free radical but in the process, another free radical is formed . A chain reaction then begins and thousands of free radical reaction can occur within seconds of the 1st reaction unless the extra free radical is deactivated.
Food sources rich in antioxidants:
Vitamin A and carotenoid is a fat soluble vitamin sources are carrots,squash,broccoli,sweet potato, tomato,kale, chard, collard greens .cantaloupe, peaches,apricot (bright colored fruits and vegetables) This is a fat soluble vitamin and unlike vitamin C does not have to be consumed daily because it is stored in the liver. Large amount from food can be consumed over a long period of time with no ill effect other than yellowing of the skin which disappears when the food source is reduced.
Preformed vitamin A is not excreted in the urine and can accumulate in the body to toxic levels if megadoses of vitamin A supplement is consumed at levels of 50,000 to 100,000 I.U daily.
Vitamin C is a water soluble and heat labile vitamin . Excess amount of vitamin C above the recommended requirement is excreted in the urine. Food sources are citrus fruits,strawberries and tomatoes. This vitamin must be present in ones diet daily.Vitamin C helps on protecting the integrity of the immune system.
Vitamin E is found in nuts ,seeds and whole grain cereal,green leafy vegetables,vegetable oil , and cod liver oil.
Selenium is from shellfish , red meats,grains eggs ,cheese and garlic.
Some common phytochemicals
Flavanoids and polypenols from soy,red wine,purple or concord grapes,cranberries and blueberries,black and green tea.
Lycopene food sources from Gac,tomatoes and tomato products, acai berry or mona vie,pink grapefruit and water melon
Lutein sources are billberry,dark green vegetables,kale,chard,spinach,broccoli,kiwi, brussel sprouts
Lignin comes from flax seed,oatmeal,barley and rye
Vitamin like anti oxidant coenzyme Q10 or COQ10, glutathione
Anti oxidant produced by the body are superoxide dismutaste (SOD) glutathione peroxide
Antioxidants are free radical scavengers. They prevent and repair damage caused by free radicals.
With our current lifestyle ,people are too busy to cook or choose what they eat in order to obtain all the vitamins and antioxidants there body needs. Is taking anti oxidant supplement a cure to a bad diet? Here are some of the findings that will make you think twice before you gulp those supplements.
According to WEB MD, a new detailed analysis of human studies of beta carotene ,vitamin A and Vitamin E shows that people who take these antioxidant do not live any longer than those who do not take them. Those who take them have a higher risk of death than those who do not. This study was published in JAMA (Journal of he American Medical Association) where the investigators(physicians involved in the study) stated that they will no longer recommend beta carotene,vitamin A and E to their patients because these supplements offer no benefits,but did no harm.
Antioxidant supplements is not a magic bullet for disease prevention. There is no single capsule or supplement that is going to provide all your health needs. It is what you eat , your food choices and how you cook it , your lifestyle and your physical activity . Maintain a healthy weight,keep hydrated and eat a healthy diet is what matters. All the antioxidant rich foods are easily found in your local supermarkets,farmers market, or grow your own , to eliminate the free radicals from pesticide that comes along with the produce you purchase. If you must take supplements purchase them in combination with other antioxidant,for example in the form of multivitamins. Excessive intake of any one vitamin many times the required RDA can result in toxicty and can cause detrimental effect on your HDL (good cholesterol ) and increase incidence of autoimmune diseases. Consuming antioxidant rich food in excess of your RDA (recommended daily allowance) rarely cause toxicity and occur primarily with arctic explorer who consumed excessive amounts of polar bear liver (rich source of vitamin A).
The lesson: you can not correct a bad diet with supplements, if you do, you will missed out from the other nutrients that food provides. It is also more economical and fun to cook and eat food instead of gulping a capsule or tablet.