Antioxidants seem to be everywhere; in superfoods and skincare, even chocolate and red wine. Products that contain antioxidants claim to be essential for good health, with promises to fight disease and reverse aging.
But are they really as good for us as people say? And how do they work?
Today we’re going to discuss everything you need to know about antioxidants.
What Exactly Are Antioxidants?
An antioxidant is a chemical that shields cells from the damaging effects of free radicals (molecules produced when the body breaks down certain foods or is exposed to pollutants such as tobacco smoke, UV exposure, or radiation). Free radicals can damage cells and are associated with conditions like heart disease, some types of cancer, arthritis and other diseases.
Your body has natural antioxidant defenses that can control free radicals. Additionally, antioxidants are also present in your diet, particularly in fruits, vegetables, and other whole foods made from plants. A number of vitamins, including vitamins E and C, work well as antioxidants. Some of the most common antioxidants include:
Why Should We Include Antioxidants in Our Diet?
To fight free radicals. Antioxidants, as previously mentioned, are substances that work to prevent or reduce the harm done by free radicals.1 Antioxidants are used by your body to balance free radicals, preventing them from harming other cells.1
For healthy eyes. The National Eye Institute and the National Institutes of Health have shown in numerous significant clinical studies that antioxidant supplements have positive effects.2 A combination of antioxidants (500 mg vitamin C, 400 IU vitamin E, 15 mg beta carotene, and 80 mg zinc) reduced the incidence of age-related macular degeneration by 25%, according to a six-year clinical study.2
To reduce inflammation. Inflammation can be reduced by antioxidants. For instance, vitamin C has been demonstrated to lower c-reactive protein (CRP), which is an inflammatory marker.3 In one study, vitamin C was found to lower CRP in people with elevated CRP by 25%.3
For brain health. Numerous studies have revealed a link between a lack of antioxidants and neurological diseases (such as Alzheimer's, Huntington's, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis). In one of these studies, vitamin C and/or vitamin E administration to persons 65 and older resulted in a decreased risk of cognitive decline.4 Additionally, a clinical trial called The Physicians' Health Study II also administered a placebo or a 50 mg beta-carotene supplement to over 6,000 men over the age of 65.5 The researchers found that the cognitive function of the males who used beta-carotene supplements for at least 15 years improved.5
For mental health. An increasing body of evidence links oxidative stress, an inadequate antioxidant defense system, and mood problems.6 Vitamin A, C, and E levels were shown to be lower in those with depression and anxiety disorders, according to a recent study. After receiving 6-weeks of dietary supplementation, blood levels of antioxidants rose, and depression and anxiety symptoms were reduced.6
It’s recommended that you make half your plate fruits and vegetables and if you aim to do that at most meals, you can be sure to get the antioxidants you need!
1. Sotler, R., Poljšak, B., Dahmane, R., Jukić, T., Pavan Jukić, D., Rotim, C., Trebše, P., & Starc, A. (2019). Prooxidant activities of antioxidants and their impact on health. Acta Clinica Croatica, 58(4), 726–736.
2. Age-Related Eye Disease Study Research Group. (2001). A randomized, placebo-controlled, clinical trial of high-dose supplementation with vitamins C and E and beta carotene for age-related cataract and vision loss: AREDS report no. 9. Archives of Ophthalmology, 119(10), 1439.
3. Block, G., Jensen, C. D., Dalvi, T. B., Norkus, E. P., Hudes, M., Crawford, P. B., Holland, N., Fung, E. B., Schumacher, L., & Harmatz, P. (2009). Vitamin C treatment reduces elevated C-reactive protein. Free Radical Biology & Medicine, 46(1), 70–77.
4. Teleanu, R. I., Chircov, C., Grumezescu, A. M., Volceanov, A., & Teleanu, D. M. (2019). Antioxidant therapies for neuroprotection-A review. Journal of Clinical Medicine, 8(10), 1659.
5. Grodstein, F., Kang, J. H., Glynn, R. J., Cook, N. R., & Gaziano, J. M. (2007). A randomized trial of beta carotene supplementation and cognitive function in men: the Physicians’ Health Study II. Archives of Internal Medicine, 167(20), 2184–2190.
6. Gautam, M., Agrawal, M., Gautam, M., Sharma, P., Gautam, A. S., & Gautam, S. (2012). Role of antioxidants in generalised anxiety disorder and depression. Indian Journal of Psychiatry, 54(3), 244–247.