Health Battle: Antioxidants versus Free Radicals

You may have heard, “Antioxidants fight free radicals,” and wondered if this is a health issue or a reference to a conflict in a war-torn country.

The relationship between antioxidants and free radicals is a health issue, but – as the terminology suggests – it is definitely a battle.

What Are Free Radicals?

As noted in a WebMD feature article, “As oxygen interacts with cells of any type – an apple slice or, in your body, the cells lining your lungs or in a cut on your skin – oxidation occurs.” Oxidation is a normal occurrence that happens continuously in your body. When cells are damaged or die, your body stays healthy by producing new cells.

In most instances (over 98% of the time), your body efficiently metabolizes the oxygen. However, during the one to two percent of oxidation cases, the cells are missing a critical molecule. These cells – referred to as “free radicals” – bombard other cells in the body, trying to fill the void of the missing molecule.

These free radicals then rob other cells of the molecule, damaging the DNA of the other cell. This change in the cell’s DNA causes a mutation, which can create the start of a disease.

What Are Antioxidants?

Antioxidants are vitamins, minerals, and enzymes that – as the name implies – work against the damaging effects of the oxidation process. The antioxidants counter the effects of the free radicals by “donating” one of their own molecules to the free radical – which ends the free radical’s assault on other cells. Unlike other cells, antioxidants do not mutate with the loss of the molecule.

Disease-fighting Power of Antioxidants

Because free radicals are known to contribute to the development of numerous adverse health effects, antioxidants have been touted as a viable defense. It is believed that antioxidants can help prevent the development of certain chronic health issues and diseases, including:

  • Heart disease
  • Various forms of cancer
  • Stroke
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Cataracts

When you look at research, however, you will find that some medical trials produce mixed results on the effectiveness of the health benefits of antioxidants. However, a report by the Harvard School of Public Health notes that most of these studies do not look at the long-term effect of antioxidants, but the one study that did showed their positive health benefits.

Getting the Antioxidants You Need

In order to effectively increase your antioxidant intake, you need to know what, exactly, qualifies as an antioxidant. As mentioned above, antioxidants are vitamins, minerals, and enzymes, including:

  • Vitamin A and beta-carotene
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin E
  • Selenium
  • Coenzyme Q10
  • Alpha-lipoic acid
  • Zinc

The recommended dietary allowances for antioxidants vary based on the antioxidant.

Foods Containing Antioxidants

Antioxidants occur naturally in many foods. As noted by Livestrong, there are main categories of antioxidant foods, including:

  • Berries
  • Carrots
  • Green vegetables
  • Grains
  • Green tea
Increase Your Intake with Supplements

With the abundance of antioxidant-rich foods, you may wonder why you would need to take a supplement or concentrate. As noted by Dr. Tei- Fu Chen, Founder and Chairman of the Board of Sunrider® International, “we cannot consume a thousand kilograms of these foods every day to keep our skin youthful. This is why concentration is needed.”

Supplements provide concentrated doses of antioxidants, allowing you to better battle the free radicals that can contribute to the formation of disease in your body. Don’t be passive about your health. Boost your resistance with antioxidants.