There are a lot of health conscious people who spend time and money researching and buying antioxidant supplements for the simple reason that they want the benefits that antioxidants can provide for their health. The list of benefits we derive from antioxidants is impressive and totally legitimate. The problem is that simply taking antioxidant supplements will not do the whole job.
The Role of Antioxidants
To understand what antioxidants do and why they’re important, you need to understand free radicals, which are caused by rogue electrons. Let’s go to the big picture first and then focus in on free radicals.
The body has a system of organs – like your heart, lungs and liver which perform certain specific functions – every one of which is essential for your health. The organs are made up of living tissue and the tissue is made up of cells – literally trillions of them. The cells are composed of molecules which are themselves composed of atoms which have neutrons, positrons and electrons. The electrons of most atoms are in pairs and the paired structure is essential for them to remain stable. If, for some reason, an atom loses an electron (and it happens all the time) a free radical is formed. The atom will steal an electron from another atom. When this happens, a new atom- which is part of a molecule, in its turn, becomes unstable (a free radical) and is off to steal another electron from somewhere else.
As you can imagine, a chain reaction occurs, that left unchecked will damage the structure of the cell. When this happens, the tissue of an organ gets cluttered up with a lot of damaged cells which left long enough will impair the function of the organ.
Antioxidants are molecules containing atoms that can donate an electron to a free radical and will either remain stable without it or will become too weak to steal an electron from another atom. Regardless why, the chain reaction is stopped and the antioxidant has protected the cell. Bruce Ames, a well known scientist studying antioxidants estimated that a cell will be hit up to 10,000 times daily by a free radical looking to steal an electron. And to put that into perspective – consider the trillions of cells in our bodies.
This attack by free radicals contributes to (and some will say primarily causes) many of the acute and chronic diseases that we associate with aging. Alzheimer’s disease, acute and chronic inflammation, coronary disease, cancer, type II diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis and some types of dementia have all been traced back to free radical damage. And that’s not the full list.
If you want to reduce your own production of free radicals and get more antioxidants into your body to help clean up the mess they cause, deciding to buy antioxidants supplements isn’t enough. You need to:
Stop causing the damage. Free radicals are created through many processes. Many of which we can control. Air pollution, primary and second hand tobacco smoke, substance abuse, Junk Food, unnecessary chemicals and excessive exercise (yes even good things than go bad) all create free radicals and all are within our ability to control.
Eat more fresh foods and more fruits and VEGETABLES. You can’t tell me you didn’t expect to see vegetables on the list? The list of foods that we can take to boost our levels of specific antioxidants is almost too long to mention. But think deep green and think blue and start your research from there.
Buy antioxidants and antioxidant supplements. Supplements like Vitamins C and E, Resveratrol and Cordyceps are excellent examples of antioxidants supplements that are available to buy. Research your choices first because sources, quality and usability will vary widely, but you can add them as part of your plan.
Take Glutathione precursors. Your levels of Glutathione – the Master Antioxidant cannot be effectively increased by direct supplementation. Glutathione is actually manufactured by your body. This is an extremely important antioxidant and to help your body overcome the natural production declines that come with aging, you can eat foods like asparagus and broccoli, try Milk Thistle, Whey Protein, Turmeric or Selenium or buy glutathione precursor