Antioxidants are certain substances that inhibit oxidation. By that, they are able to protect human cells from the damage, caused by free radical and other harmful agents and neutralize them. The latter may be delivered to the body through smoking, air pollution, radiation, exposure to poisonous chemicals, and so on. Also, they may be produced right in the body during normal metabolic processes.
For the most part, antioxidants are vitamins, phytochemicals, and other micronutrients. They are, for example, selenium, vitamins A, C and E, lycopene and lutein among others. The dietary antioxidants are found in many healthy foods you consume on the daily basis — various fruits, vegetables, nuts, and grains are extremely rich in these substances. Also, antioxidants are contained in meats and fish, though, in smaller amounts. And, unsurprisingly, there are almost no antioxidants in junk food and sweets of all sorts.
Why Antioxidants Are Necessary
Normally, there are quite little free radicals produced during metabolic processes. Too much free radicals in the human body may lead to the development of various diseases of different severity — from cough to cancer. Antioxidants are able to neutralize them and, by that, lower the risk of all these possible diseases.
If you eat healthy products and avoid junk food, you are unlikely to be deficient of antioxidants in the normal circumstances. However, if you are, for example, exposed to harmful substances like cigarette smoke or polluted environment on the regular basis, you may need to add even more antioxidants-rich products to your ration or even consider taking supplements.
Unsurprisingly, antioxidants, just like all the other essential micronutrients, are available in the form of dietary supplements. However, there is a problem with these products — they are not proven to be beneficial in comparison with antioxidants, contained in foods.
These substances are much more effective when they are consumed in their natural form, i.e. in the form of certain foods. When they are extracted and turned into supplements, they work much worse. The results of human clinical trials are that extracted antioxidants are not effective for death and various diseases (apart from age-related vision decline) prevention. Still, this doesn’t mean that supplements are useless in case of their deficiency and eliminating the health-related problems it has caused.
More Is Not Always Better
Though getting overdose by eating antioxidant-rich foods is almost impossible, the thing is different with the antioxidants in the form of supplements. Large doses of the latter or their combinations with certain drugs may cause harm to your health. For example:
- Vitamin A supplements overdose may cause to fetal defects during pregnancy. It may also lead to cardiovascular problems and even cancer in the long-term.
- Large doses of vitamin E are linked to the increased risk of early death. They may also cause internal hemorrhage.
- Selenium overdose may cause toxic injury to the whole body and hair loss.
- Too much vitamin C may cause dizziness and vomiting. Regular overdoses may lead to allergies.
As you can see, despite the common belief, more is not always better. If you think that taking any type of antioxidant in the form of a dietary supplement may be beneficial for you for this or that reason, you should visit your doctor for a consultation to make sure you are not mistaken. Only with proper medical control, you will get the most of the dietary supplements and avoid all the possible harm.