Antioxidants are compounds found in certain foods that slow down or prevent cell damage.
What are their health benefits?
The function of antioxidants is to neutralise free radicals (unstable molecules), which damage cell membranes and other structures in the body. Free radicals are linked to cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and liver and heart disease.
Free radicals are also produced when the body is exposed to environmental factors, such as tobacco smoke or radiation, and they play a role in premature ageing. Examples of antioxidants include betacarotene, lutein, lycopene, selenium, vitamin A, vitamin C and vitamin E.
Do you have a deficiency?
Symptoms of antioxidant deficiency include:
- Poor memory
- Skin and hair changes
- Impaired wound healing
High-risk groups include:
- Older people, as the body makes fewer of its own antioxidants as it ages
- People who drink too much alcohol and are exposed to tobacco smoke
- People who have digestive problems
- Or those who cannot absorb antioxidants properly
Find it in these foods
Recommended foods include:
- Some meats, poultry and fish
Your diet should include five servings of fruit and vegetables per day.
High levels of antioxidants are also found in tea (black and green), red wine and coffee but drink these in moderation.
Evidence suggests that taking antioxidant supplements is not as effective as the naturally-occurring antioxidants in foods.
Recommended dietary allowance (RDA)
Your RDA will depend on your age and gender. It is important to stay within the recommended daily amounts for each antioxidant unless your doctor recommends otherwise. Other factors, such as pregnancy and illnesses, also affect the amount of antioxidants you need.
Know the overdose risks
Some of the sources of antioxidants can be toxic if taken in high amounts. Taking too many supplements as well as eating food rich in antioxidants cause most cases of antioxidant toxicity.
Taking too much vitamin A, for example, can lead to vitamin A toxicity, which can result in birth defects, liver abnormalities, osteoporosis or central nervous system disorders. Large doses of vitamin C may cause side effects such as diarrhoea, nausea, and stomach cramps.
Ensure you discuss dietary supplementation with your Clicks pharmacist to avoid the potential for side effects and adverse interactions with medications.
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