Just What Are Antioxidants?
What this means is that vitamins A, C, and E react with oxygen before the oxygen can take part in other biochemical reactions. Just like the antioxidant in a bottle of vegetable oil can prevent that oil from becoming rancid, or oxygenated, these vitamins can slow down undesirable reactions in your body.
One of the most substantiated claims has to do with LDL cholesterol. This “bad” part of your total serum cholesterol is responsible for depositing plaque-forming cholesterol in your arteries, and oxygen is needed for the LDL to perform this task. If vitamin E is added, it reacts with the oxygen first and decreases this plaque formation.
Many of the current studies involving vitamin E and LDL have found that 400 IU of vitamin E provides optimum protection. Less isn’t quite enough and more provides no additional protection.
Less well substantiated, but still worth noting, is the work being done with cancer prevention and antioxidant vitamins. But, most of this work has been done in a test tube, so it may not prove beneficial for human beings. Some scientists believe that it is a stretch from the test tube to the human body, but, in test tubes, antioxidant vitamins have been shown to slow tumor growth. Most authorities concur that these vitamins, consumed in moderate amounts, are part of a healthy diet.
According to an article exploring the association between cervical cancer and beta carotene in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the risk of cervical cancer was reduced when a person’s diet was supplemented with beta carotene.
However, the association was not apparent when vitamin A was used as a supplement. Since beta carotene is turned into vitamin A by the body, researchers suggest that the protective role of beta carotene is not related solely to its role as a precursor of vitamin A.
Additional studies are being done with regard to retarding the aging action of sun damage on inner layers skin. Since this aging action is believed to be increased by oxygenation, it is hypothesized that the application of an antioxidant vitamin or vitamins, either internally or topically, may lessen the wrinkling process.
Are you an athlete, or even a weekend warrior? Extra A,C, and E could reduce your recovery time following strenuous exercise. In one study conducted at the University of California in Berkeley, antioxidants were associated with significantly lower levels of muscle damage and a faster recovery of antioxidant status.
Even more importantly, extra antioxidants can reduce recovery time or help you avoid illness. These vitamins have been shown to play an active part in keeping your immune system in top condition. A healthy immune system can help you win the battle against colds, flu, and serious medical maladies. When combined with physical conditioning, antioxidant supplementation can stimulate cellular immune functions in adults.
What Does This Mean To You?
Should you take antioxidants? Yes, but select an antioxidant formula with no more than 400 IU of vitamin E, 500 mg of vitamin C, and all vitamin A as beta carotene.
Don’t rely on vitamin E to replace the importance of a low-fat diet in keeping arterial plaque at a minimum.
Don’t rely on vitamin creams to stop sun damage; limit your exposure.
Don’t rely on tablets to provide good nutrition. Include a minimum of 5 servings of fruits and vegetables daily.