Antioxidants are molecules which can safely interact with free radicals and terminate the chain reaction before vital molecules are damaged. Although there are several enzyme systems within the body that scavenge free radicals, the principle micronutrient (vitamin) antioxidants are vitamin E, beta-carotene, and vitamin C. Additionally, selenium, a trace metal that is required for proper function of one of the body's antioxidant enzyme systems, is sometimes included in this category. The body cannot manufacture these micronutrients so they must be supplied in the diet.
VITAMIN E : d-alpha tocopherol. A fat soluble vitamin present in nuts, seeds, vegetable and fish oils, whole grains (esp. wheat germ), fortified cereals, and apricots. Current recommended daily allowance (RDA) is 15 IU per day for men and 12 IU per day for women. It prevents the oxidation of fatty acids and protects every living cell in the body as their outer membrane is mainly composed of lipids. Other benefits of this vitamin include prevention of cataracts and coronary artery disease and helping immune function.
VITAMIN C : Ascorbic acid is a water soluble vitamin present in citrus fruits and juices, green peppers, cabbage, spinach, broccoli, kale, cantaloupe, kiwi, and strawberries. The RDA is 60 mg per day. Intake above 2000 mg may be associated with adverse side effects in some individuals.Vitamin C has powerful antioxidant properties and prevents oxidation of Vitamins A and E. In addition it is involved in cell and tissue repair, particularly helping to maintain the integrity of the vascular system by strengthening cellular walls of blood vessels. Vitamin C also boosts Immune function as it increases the production of interferons, these are natural immune stimulating chemicals that have an antiviral action.
Beta-carotene is a precursor to VITAMIN A (retinol) and is present in liver, egg yolk, milk, butter, spinach, carrots, squash, broccoli, yams, tomato, cantaloupe, peaches, and grains.Vitamin A is essential for a healthy immune system, normal cell reproduction, growth and repair of tissues. It is also necessary for maintaining the mucous membranes of the respiratory, digestive and urinary tract and for healthy skin. The skin is the body's first line of defence against invading microorganisms and other toxins.
TUMERIC ROOT: Curcumin, the active constituent of Tumeric is a strong antioxidant and is also an effective detoxifying agent as it protects the liver from many toxins. In addition it has antiviral and anti-inflammatory actions and helps to lower cholesterol.
BILBERRY: Anthocyanosides are the group of active compounds found in Bilberry, they are extremely powerful antioxidants having activities many times greater than Vitamins C and E. Also, unlike these Vitamins, Anthocyanosides give protection in both the watery and fatty parts of the body. Bilberry supports and strengthens collagen structure and is known to increase capillary blood flow, with overall benefits for the eyes and the cardiovascular system.
GRAPE SEED EXTRACT: Many botanical species contain active compounds called Oligomeric Proanthocyanidins (OPC's). Grape Seed Extract provides a concentrated source of OPC's, which are unique flavonols with excellent bioavailability and extremely powerful antioxidant activity, clinical studies indicate that they are fifty times more potent then Vitamin E and a hundred times more effective then Vitamin C. OPC's also repair and strengthen connective tissue, including that of the blood vessels and the cardiovascular system. They also have anti-inflammatory, anti-ageing and anti-carcinogenic action.
BOSWELLIA RESIN: Boswellic Acids have powerful anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. This nutrient would benefit those who suffer from inflammatory conditions such as arthritis, which can be mediated by excessive levels of free radicals in the body.
SELENIUM: Selenium enhances the utilisation of Vitamin E and both nutrients work synergistically as antioxidants. Selenium is required for the formation of the enzyme Glutathione Peroxidase. This antioxidant enzyme protects body cells against oxidative damage by hydrogen peroxide, a type of free radical in the body which is converted to water. Selenium also plays an important role in protecting and maintaining the healthy function of vital body organs such as the heart, Liver, pancreas, thyroid glands and lungs and also promotes immune response to antibodies.
Preventing cancer and heart disease -- do antioxidants help?
Epidemiologic observations show lower cancer rates in people whose diets are rich in fruits and vegetables. This has lead to the theory that these diets contain substances, possibly antioxidants, which protect against the development of cancer.
Antioxidants are also thought to have a role in slowing the aging process and preventing heart disease and strokes, but the data is still inconclusive. Therefore from a public health perspective it is premature to make recommendations regarding antioxidant supplements and disease prevention. New data from ongoing studies will be available in the next few years and will shed more light on this constantly evolving area. Perhaps the best advice, which comes from several authorities in cancer prevention, is to eat 5 servings of fruit or vegetables per day.