Antioxidants:
Guardians Against Aging

What are antioxidants?

They're molecules that act as chemical reducing agents. They essentially vacuum up roving electrons -- known as free radicals -- which, if not effectively constrained, can damage cells and cause harm to the body's tissues. (Metaphorically speaking: free radicals are like out of control turbo-charged pinballs careening around your insides.)

Some of these reducers are soluble in water; others are soluble in lipids. Examples of these compounds include:

  • Phytochemicals
  • Flavonoids
  • Ligman
  • Micopene

What are common sources of dietary antioxidants?

  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin C (beta-carotene)
  • Vitamin E
  • Coenzyme Q
  • Melatonin
  • Dietary supplements
  • Fruits and vegetables (such as watermelon, spinach, and broccoli)
  • Fish
  • Red wine
  • Spirulina
  • Tomato sauce
  • Red meat
  • Garlic

Can you take too many?

Overconsumption of any substance, particularly a dietary supplement, can be hazardous to your health. Discuss any supplementation regimen with your physician first.

Why do nutritionists and doctors consider these compounds important?

Evidence suggests a correlation between what’s known as oxidative stress and diseases like stroke, Alzheimer's disease, atherosclerosis, and even aging itself. Thus, bioactive chemicals that reverse oxidative stress must surely make us healthier... or at least so the thinking goes...

One issue here, however, is that the role of cause and effect in oxidation and reduction inside the body can be very difficult to adduce. That is, it's hard to know whether oxidation itself causes the damage; or whether oxidation is simply associated with damage caused by some other factor.

To that point, evidence exists linking oxidative stress with the carbohydrates in our diet.

So not all foods rich in these compounds are good for us?

Correct. For instance, many fruit juices claim to be healthy because they are rich in phytonutrients, vitamins and minerals. But drinking too much fruit juice may actually cause the same kind of oxidative damage you’re trying to repair. When the fructose in fruit juice gets broken down in the liver, molecules called VLDLs (very low density lipoproteins) can form, and these VLDLs can cause serious health problems.

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