Free Radicals and Antioxidants

Are you familiar with terms free radicals and antioxidants? You probably came across these terms in a tv ad promoting a product with a tagline “Fight free radicals, take X supplement! Rich in antioxidants to fight cancer!”  The two are intertwined and very related to each other.

First, we have to understand the process of oxidation that occurs in the cells. Oxidation happens when electrons or hydrogen transfers from a substance to an oxidizing agent. The process produces “free radicals” not only one or two but a chain of them which in turn damages or even could cause the death of a cell. Free radicals is cancer-causing.  In order to prevent free radical formation, oxidation should be stopped.  Only antioxidants can terminate these reactions by eliminating free radicals or even other oxidation reactions. The good thing is antioxidants include a wide-range of vitamins and minerals found in the food we eat daily. Antioxidants include Vitamins C, E, A, beta-carotene, lycopene, thiols, ascorbic acid or polyphenols.

Large scale clinical trials have proven that anti-oxidants can slow down if not all together prevent cancer. According to the US National Cancer Institute, however, there were five large-scale clinical trials published in the 1990s that had different opinions on the effect of antioxidant on cancer. The studies  primarily, investigated whether beta-carotene and other antioxidants are effective in preventing cancer among several population groups. The study produced different conflicting results. One test group, for instance, showed beta-carotene  and other anti-oxidants contributed to a significant reduction in cancer. Meanwhile, in another population who are also smokers, the lung cancer rate significantly increased due to beta-carotene.  Another population test group of smokers result supported this. The two other studies, nonetheless, showed beta-carotene or any antioxidant for that matter doesn’t increase or decrease the cancer rate.

Now with those findings, is it still important to include antioxidants in our diet?

It’s better to err on the side of caution than to regret the effects of taking on chance later. There are a number of studies proving that antioxidants can really eliminate free radicals even with recent published saying otherwise.

Let’s recap the role of antioxidants in reducing free radicals which can cause cell damage such as cancer. Antioxidants eliminate free radicals through natural cell processes. Interesting enough, the most common form of free radicals is oxygen.  This happens when an oxygen molecule turns into an electrically charged molecule  or becomes “radicalized.” When this happens, the charged oxygen molecule can snatch electrons from other molecules which inflicts damage to the DNA and other molecules. In the long-run it can lead to cancer. What the antioxidants do is it clears up the free radicals, by preventing them to neutralize the electrical charge and prevent the free radical from taking electrons from other molecules.

Antioxidants are categorized in two: water-soluble antioxidants and lipid-soluble antioxidants. Water-soluble antioxidants react with oxidants in the cell cytosol and the blood plasma. The lipid-soluble antioxidants, on the other hand,  protect cell membranes from lipid peroxidation. These different forms of antioxidants are present at a wide range of concentrations in body fluids and tissues, with some such as glutathione or ubiquinone mostly present within cells, while others such as uric acid are more evenly distributed.

If these antioxidants are then present in the body system all we have to do is to boost its presence. Among the identifiable antioxidants existing in us are uric acid, ascorbic acid, gluthatione, melatonin, or tocopherols and tocotrienols (vitamin E). Uric acid shown to be the  highest concentration antioxidant in human blood while melatonin is found in cell-membranes and blood-brain barrier. The rest of the anti-oxidants are found in minimal doses.

So what foods are rich in antioxidants?

Antioxidants are found in different sources. Its main source are fruits and vegetables but can also be found in meats, poultry, fish or even nuts and grains. The common antioxidants are Vitamins A, C, & E, beta-carotene, lutein, lycopene, and selenium.

The vitamin group are the easiest to access. Vitamin A which has three forms : Vitamin A1, Vitamin A1 and Vitamin A3 are in the food usually included in our diet such as liver, sweet potatoes, carrots, milk, egg yolks, and mozzarella cheese. Meanwhile, Vitamin C also known as ascorbic acid are mainly found in fruits and vegetables but also in cereals, beef, poultry, and fish.  Vitamin E also or alpha-tocopherol  in fruits like mango and vegetables such as broccoli. It is also found in almonds and in many oil like wheat germ, safflower, corn, and soybean oils.

For beta-carotene you would have to switch back and forth with mangos, apricots, pumpkin, carrots, potatoes, and squash.

Greenleafy veggies like collard environment-friendlies, spinach, as well as kale additionally have beta-carotene.

Lutein, best recognized for its organization with healthy and balanced eyes, is bountiful in environment-friendly, leafed veggies such as collard environment-friendlies, spinach, as well as kale.

Lycopeneis a powerful antioxidant located in tomatoes, watermelon, guava, papaya, apricots, pink grapefruit, blood oranges, as well as various other foods. Estimates recommend 85 percent of American nutritional consumption of lycopene originates from tomatoes as well as tomato items.

Seleniumis a mineral, not an antioxidant nutrient. However, it belongs of antioxidant enzymes. Plant foods like rice as well as wheat are the significant nutritional resources of selenium in a lot of nations. The quantity of selenium in dirt, which differs by area, identifies the quantity of selenium in the foods expanded because dirt. Animals that consume grains or plants expanded in selenium-rich dirt have greater degrees of selenium in their muscle mass. In the United States, meats as well as bread prevail resources of nutritional selenium. Brazil nuts additionally have huge amounts of selenium