Antioxidants: Do We Need Them?


For sure the word antioxidant is now used by everyone who is intensively and curiously looking for natural methods of healing, as well as by those who are looking for a panacea to heal the multitude of ailments they experience. This way we can find today a huge variety of precious antioxidants, sold in various forms online as well as in health food stores: capsules, powders, fruits and tinctures, coming from all places of the world. All informed people have found out by now about acai, maqui, goji berries, raw chocolate, green tea, blueberries and more! Health benefits? A never ending list? The truth? As usual, it lies somewhere in the middle.

What Are Antioxidants and Why Are They Necessary?

An antioxidant is a nutrient or a molecule capable of suppressing the oxidation of another molecule. Antioxidants suppress the negative effects of excess free radicals. They are of two kinds: exogenous (from food, like vitamins C,E, A, D) or endogenous (produced by the organism: catalase, superoxide dismutase, gluthation, CoQ10, alpha lipoic acid.)

Other important benefits of antioxidants are: repairing of altered molecules, chelation of heavy metals, protective effect on DNA, producing of anti-cancerous chemicals, improving the natural defense mechanisms of the body.

Antioxidants From Food.

If you consume organic high quality food daily, with a good amount of antioxidants, you have high chances to ensure your adequate daily amount. But depletion of soils because of industrial food growing lead to low quality crops, containing much less nutrients than in the past. Also, because of environment’s toxicity, the body needs an increased amount of exogenous antioxidants. These could be an efficient way of preventing and eliminating serious conditions, like cancer. For example, in certain situations, both selenium and vitamin C therapy were successfully used to treat cancer and eliminate an advanced stage of toxicity.

Carotenoids are a class of over 700 antioxidants with significant beneficial effects, which are found in yellow, orange, red and green plants. These are beneficial especially for the cardiovascular and ocular health (lutein especially). Licopene, one of these carotenoids contained by tomatoes is important for prostate health.Astaxanthin contained by wild salmon has powerful beneficial effects for the immune system, cardiovascular and ocular health; it reduces inflammation, and is brain and DNA protective. Berries are also a rich source of carotenoids and vitamin C.

Organic, fresh vegetables, especially the leafy greens, as well as sprouts and condiments (cinnamon, oregano, turmeric, ginger, cloves) are rich in anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer antioxidants. Glucosinolates contained by cruciferous vegetables like broccoli activate the detoxifying enzymes, especially in the gastrointestinal system. Allicin contained by garlic, onion and asparagus is a powerful immune boosting and anti-bacterial compound.

Green tea contains epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), a catechin and one of the most powerful known antioxidants, with beneficial effects on the cardiovascular and ocular system, and on cholesterol regulation. Unfortunately not all green teas are of a good quality; many cheap brands are contaminated with fluoride, contain toxic plastic, toxic compounds inside the tea bag and very little EGCG. Matcha and tulsi would be a better choice instead. Also, not all metabolisms obtain beneficial effects after consuming green tea daily. For example, in protein types green tea determines an increase of oxidation rate, which translates into increased hunger and converting nutrients into energy too rapidly.

Antioxidants Produced by the Organism.

Out the five antioxidants produced by the body, three are most important: catalase, glutathione and superoxide dismutase. These can convert free radicals into oxygen and water, neutralizing them. Many researchers believe that cholesterol can also be considered an antioxidant, due to its ability to suppress leucotrienes  pro-inflammatory compounds derived from arachidonic acid. Cholesterol has a powerful anti-inflammatory effect and a critical role in regulating inflammation and free radical activity. A low cholesterol level is associated with many inflammatory, auto-immune conditions.

Glutathione: The Lesser Known Essential.

Glutathione is the master-antioxidant of the body, which is found in each cell and has the ability to maximize the performance of all the others antioxidants. It is synthesized from three amino-acids: glutamic acid, L-cysteine and L-glycine.

Glutathione modulates the immune response, determining it to function at its full potential and killing cytotoxic T-cells. More than 6% of total ATP production (biological energy) is used for synthesizing and regulating glutathione levels. It is extremely important in detoxification processes, especially that of heavy metals and various chemicals and can repair DNA damage.

All biological systems in the body are affected by the powerful protective and regulating ability of glutathione. But this decreases with age by almost 1% each year, affecting longevity. Toxicity, stress, chronic infections, free radical damage all reduce the body’s ability to produce glutathione. People suffering from cancer, AIDS, diabetes, Alzheimer and Parkinson tend to have a very low glutathione level in the body.

Foods like organic, grass fed meat and raw dairy, fish, eggs, blackberries, asparagus and other green vegetables contribute to glutathione production. Selenium, folate, vitamins B12 and B6 are also important nutrients which assist in glutathione synthesis and maintaining an optimal level.

What Happens When We Loose Our Antioxidant Reserves?

It’s important to understand that oxidation is not a negative phenomenon, but a fundamental process of metabolism. Without oxidation one can’t create energy and the human body wouldn’t be able to function. When oxidation takes place, the result is free radicals, atoms or molecules with a free electron. A certain number of free radicals in the body is actually essential for a proper function of the cell and for health.

But when oxidation is out of control and/or the health of the cell is compromised because of multiple factors, free radicals become the main cause of decomposing, aging and cellular death. This contributes to degenerative conditions like arthritis, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, cancer and Alzheimer. Also, chronic inflammation in the body can determine an excessive free radical activity and can lead to tissue damage.

Can Antioxidants Be Toxic?

When an antioxidant destroys a free radical, the antioxidant itself oxidizes. That’s why the antioxidants reserves must be continuously replenished in the body. This way, while in a certain system an antioxidant is efficient against a free radical, the same antioxidant can be totally inefficient in different systems. Also, in certain situations, an antioxidant can become a pro-oxidant and generate toxic species of reactive oxygen and nitrogen. The moment when antioxidants are transformed into pro-oxidants, which contributes to separation of electrons from atoms, free radical production increases along with their damage.

The balance between oxidation and antioxidation is critical in maintaining a healthy biological system. So the way free radicals can be in excess, that?s how antioxidants can be in excess, when you supplement with big quantities and generate an imbalance.

Free radicals are necessary for life! The body can’t transform air and food into energy without a chain reaction of free radicals. These are also an important part of the immune system, circulating through veins and attacking intruders. They also contribute to fighting bacterial infections. Free radicals are a product of respiration. Antioxidants are present to eliminate some of these, but not too many!

In the ?90s a series of studies lead to controversy in the medical world, because they fought the idea that the antioxidants are always necessary and beneficial. In 1997 The Lancet published a study done on 2,000 people who supplemented with vitamin E and beta carotene after they suffered a heart attack.

The group that was given vitamin E and the one that was given beta carotene both had a greater risk of suffering a second heart attack. Other similar studies done between 1994 and 1997 demonstrated that vitamin C and E or beta carotene didn’t prevent colon cancer or arterial plaque, and beta carotene and selenium didn’t prevent against cancer, nor did they in the case of smokers, where the risk of pulmonary cancer actually increased with 28% after beta carotene supplementation.

What do these studies show us? That therapeutical antioxidants supplementation is not a panacea, and the disease oriented therapy without considering one?s biochemical individuality is not successful either.

The food (or antioxidant) of one person can be somebody else’s poison. That’s why it’s necessary to supplement only with the nutrients which are suitable to your metabolic type.Any nutrient can lower and raise up to other nine nutrients in the body. For example, to take therapeutic doses of vitamin C can actually cause cancer in certain instances, because vitamin C lowers copper level and if you’re already copper deficient and supplement with vitamin C, you can seriously compromise your immune system.

The Perfect Diet With Sufficient Antioxidants?

The way any remedy or diet can have different effects in different metabolisms, that’s how antioxidants can have different effects in each metabolism and with different conditions. A diet rich in carbohydrates (and antioxidants), as well as a high protein diet, but also a mixed diet will all offer the necessary antioxidants in a metabolism. Healing can happen both with a mostly vegetarian diet, as with a high protein diet. Degenerative conditions like diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular diseases were successfully treated, either with consumption of green fresh juices, or with bone broths and animal fats. It was all dependent on one?s unique biochemistry and genetic requirements.

Also, when certain metabolic functions become imbalanced, then the demand for more nutrients from food also increases. Foods which are not able to offer the necessary nutrients to correct imbalances can actually contribute even more to these imbalances. So it’s necessary to reestablish the biochemical balance by following a plan which supports the individual biochemistry of the person, and which includes the necessary quantity of antioxidants for each metabolism, both from food and supplements.

The question which arises: what diet is good for me? has now a correct answer and an efficient solution through Metabolic Typing.

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The Role of Reactive-Oxygen-Species in Microbial Persistence and Inflammation
Ralee Spooner and zlem Yilmaz  Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2011, 12, 334-352; doi:10.3390/ijms12010334