Antioxidants have been lauded as one of the silver bullet for their role in health and wellness, healthy aging, creating quite a buzz in the health and wellness community over the last few decades.* But what are antioxidants? What is their history, and how do they work in our bodies?
Tracing the Historical path
The story of antioxidants starts in the early 20th century when scientists were trying to understand why food spoils and what could be done to prevent it. The term 'antioxidant' was first used in the early 1920s to describe substances that prevented the oxidation of certain chemicals.
The game-changer came in the 1950s, when Denham Harman proposed the Free Radical Theory of Aging. He suggested that free radicals, unstable molecules produced during metabolic processes, could cause cell damage, leading to aging and diseases. This theory implied that antioxidants, the molecules that neutralize free radicals, could in some specific cases help combat these detrimental effects.*
Understanding antioxidants: the biology
Antioxidants are molecules that can donate an electron to free radicals without becoming unstable themselves, thus neutralizing these potentially harmful compounds. In doing so, they might help support cells from damage caused by oxidative stress, a state when there's an imbalance between the production of free radicals and the body's ability to counteract their harmful effects.*
There are numerous antioxidants, with some of the most well-known being vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, and selenium. They're found in many foods, especially fruits, vegetables, nuts, and spices. Our bodies also produce some antioxidants, like the 'master antioxidant' L-Glutathione.
Antioxidants in health
Antioxidants have been widely studied for their role in health. Oxidative stress has been linked to a host of health issues, including heart health, immune health, and other inflammatory conditions.
Antioxidants may also play a role in healthy aging, promoting skin health, the immune system, and promoting overall health.*
Fascinating facts about antioxidants
There are thousands of antioxidant compounds, and they often work together. For example, when vitamin E neutralizes a free radical, it could be in some cases be regenerated back to its antioxidant form by vitamin C.
Not all antioxidants are created equal. They differ in their chemical structure, which determines where in the body they're most effective. For example, some antioxidants work best in the fatty parts of a cell, while others are more effective in the watery parts.
Antioxidants don't just come from food. Our bodies produce several powerful antioxidants, like coenzyme Q10 and alpha-lipoic acid.
The journey of antioxidants from food preservers to health promoters is a fascinating tale of scientific discovery. They are integral to our body's defense system and may help maintain the delicate balance of oxidative processes.
it's important to note that antioxidants supplements can't replace a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle. Most experts agree that the best way to ensure an adequate intake of antioxidants is through a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and seeds.
Future research is likely to provide even more insights into the role of antioxidants in human health, shedding light on their potential in health prevention and treatment. As our understanding deepens, we'll continue to appreciate the incredible protective power of these mighty molecules. You may also want to learn more about their potential role in sport performance.
As always, talk to your doctor before taking any supplements. Get professional advice if you think you might need a supplement or are already taking one to ensure you're not exceeding the amounts you may need.