Tuesday, 16 October 2012 | 4 comments
Antioxidants have been present since prehistoric times, when terrestrial plants produced non-marine antioxidants as they adapt from marine life. These prehistoric plants produce antioxidants such as ascorbic acid, tocopherols and polyphenols to defend themselves from reactive oxygen species which result from photosynthesis. Since then, antioxidants have proven themselves useful not only medically but also in certain industries.
Presently, a lot of products have been developed to provide antioxidants ready for human consumption. This is because there are many studies which have recently shown that antioxidants can protect cells against damaged caused by free radicals. Free radical damage may lead to cancer. Antioxidants interact with and stabilize free radicals and may prevent some of the damage free radicals might otherwise cause. Examples of antioxidants include beta-carotene, lycopene, vitamins C, E, and A, and other substances.
There are many experts who claim that antioxidants can prevent cancer. This may be due to the fact that antioxidants can neutralize free radicals which can cause cancer. Antioxidants are said to neutralize electrical charges and prevent free radicals from taking electrons from other molecules.
Foods which are rich in antioxidants include fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains, meats, poultry, and fish. Common antioxidants are beta-carotene, lutein, lycopene, selenium, Vitamin A, Vitamin C and Vitamin E. Beta-carotene is found in orange-colored foods such as sweet potatoes, carrots, cantaloupe, squash, apricots, pumpkin, and mangos. Some green, leafy vegetables, including collard greens, spinach, and kale, are also rich in beta-carotene.
Lutein is abundant in green, leafy vegetables such as collard greens, spinach, and kale. This antioxidant is good for the eyes.
Lycopene is an antioxidant found in tomatoes, watermelon, guava, papaya, apricots, pink grapefruit, blood oranges, and other foods.
Selenium is a mineral, not an antioxidant; however, it is a component of antioxidant enzymes. This mineral is found in plant foods like rice, meat, bread and wheat.
Vitamin A is found in three main forms: retinol (Vitamin A1), 3,4-didehydroretinol (Vitamin A2), and 3-hydroxy-retinol (Vitamin A3). Foods rich in vitamin A include liver, sweet potatoes, carrots, milk, egg yolks, and mozzarella cheese.
Vitamin C is also called ascorbic acid, and can be found in fruits, vegetables, cereals, beef, poultry, and fish.
Vitamin E is also known as alpha-tocopherol and is found in almonds, wheat germ oil, safflower oil, corn oil, soybean oil, mangos, nuts, broccoli, and other foods.
The next question is: can antioxidants really prevent cancer?
Examination of various chemical, cell culture, and animal studies indicates that antioxidants may slow or possibly prevent the development of cancer. However, until now, it is not yet clear as to how antioxidants can really prevent cancer. For example, in the case of beta carotene, large scale trials have revealed that beta-carotene appeared to have different effects depending upon the patient population. The Chinese Cancer Prevention Study in 1993 studied the effect of a combination of beta-carotene, vitamin E, and selenium on cancer in healthy Chinese men and women at high risk for gastric cancer. The study showed a combination of beta-carotene, vitamin E, and selenium significantly reduced incidence of both gastric cancer and cancer overall. However, in the case of the Alpha-Tocopherol (vitamin E)/ Beta-Carotene Cancer Prevention Study (ATBC) in 1994, lung cancer rates of Finnish male smokers increased significantly with beta-carotene and were not affected by vitamin E.
Will you still use antioxidants daily? That depends on your choice. If you experience certain health benefits with antioxidants, there is no reason why you should not continue using them.