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Focus on Antioxidants

You can hardly open a magazine today without seeing references to antioxidants – from supplements to skincare, they crop up everywhere, but what exactly are they?

 
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The Oxygen Problem

When it comes to oxygen, the body is continuously walking a fine line between too little and too much. It is essential for the life of almost every cell, the necessary element for the production of energy. Those cells which require more energy to function, such as muscles and nerves, need copious supplies – cells such as those making up scar tissue need very little. If oxygen is short, due perhaps to reduced blood supply to an area, the body will replace oxygen-hungry cells with scar tissue, to reduce the requirements. Hence, very tight muscles can eventually result in lumpy, tender scar tissue ‘nodules’.

This energy production within cells is not without its own dangers. Burning oxygen and glucose in the cell ‘furnaces’ produces waste products (just as your car produces exhaust fumes). These free radicals (FR’s) represent a particularly unstable form of oxygen, and act like chemical buzz-bombs. Desperate to find another molecule to neutralise themselves, they will attack and damage any part of the cell within reach. This could be for instance, the chromosomes or cell membranes. Free radical damage has been implicated in the processes leading to ageing, cancer and heart disease, to mention just a few.

 
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It's Not All Bad News

The good news is that cells have their own protective system in place – this is where antioxidants come into their own. A whole team of them work together to scavenge FRs, and reduce potential damage. Many of these team members need specific nutritional ingredients, most often provided by the dietary intake of fruit and vegetables. This is one of the several reasons why cancer rates etc. are much lower in groups of people who eat large quantities of these.

It is important to note again that antioxidants are team players – unless there is a specific therapeutic reason, they should be taken in combination, rather than in large quantities of single antioxidants (for instance, beta-carotene selenium or Vitamin E alone).

For more information on this subject click here.

 
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How Many, How Much and From Where?

The bottom line is that we all need plenty of mixed antioxidants, and the best place to find them is in your fruit and vegetables. Each different colour represents a different and essential antioxidant. Hence the advice to ‘Eat a Rainbow Every Day’!

Some people need extra supplies – any aerobic physical activity requires extra oxygen and needs extra antioxidants to mop up the inevitable FRs. So if you run, dance or play sport regularly, you might consider increasing fruit and vegetables, and taking an antioxidant supplement – but always a multiple combination … take the whole team!

If required, specific antioxidants can be added on top of the ‘multi’ – for example Alpha Lipoic Acid is often recommended for skin support, or for diabetes; Vitamin E and CoQ10 for heart protection; Vitamin C for immune support and gum health.

 
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Help!

Still confused? It's not really surprising, as antioxidants are revealing themselves to be an ever-more complex system. Each month brings a new piece of fascinating research. If you think you want to check your current diet for antioxidants, or need advice on the type of supplements which may be helpful, contact us for a Nutritional Consultation.

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