Antioxidents: Our internal fire guard
Antioxidents are like the fire screen we put up to stop sparks flying out and burning the carpet. Antioxidents help protect the human cell (the carpet) from the firestorm of free radicals (burning sparks) that are ignited from the metabolic processes of the cell (the fire) (1). As long as we have sufficient numbers of antioxidents, the damage to the cell is minimized. If, however, the protection is not there, then the cumulative damage of these burning sparks can seriously damage the carpet.
Such stress to human cells by free radicals is now believed to be the major force behind the onset of chronic degenerative disease e.g. heart disease, cancer, diabetes, arthritis (1, 4).
Antioxidents neutralise these free radicals, stopping them dead in their tracks before they can cause damage to the human cell. During this process, antioxidents are chemically altered. Some antioxidents are regenerated by other antioxidents (1), which is why you should supplement with a complete range, rather than just one or two antioxidents. Other antioxdents are changed completely or excreted from the body (1). Our bodies produce some antioxidents, while other must come from diet.
Working together to protect the human cell
Although minerals are not antioxidents, they do form a vital part of different antioxident systems in the body, these include copper, zinc, selenium and manganese (2). To see which antioxident is the most important to the body, misses the point. A lot of people supplement with just vitamin C, but antioxidents work best when they together (2). Antioxidents require the presence of other antioxidents to help protect the cell, the best they can from free radicals. They work in synergy, which “implies that the effect of the whole is greater than the sum of its parts” (1).
Different antioxidents work in different parts of the human cell. For example, vitamin E is the major antioxident of the cell membrane, protecting the cell membrane from free radical damage (1, 3). Vitamin C works best in the plasma of the cell and works well with glutathione in the fluid portion of the cell (1, 3). Alpha-lipoic acid, along with many other antioxidents, grape seed and pine bark extracts, help regenerate vitamin C, which then regenerates vitamin E (1, 3).
As you can see, antioxidents and minerals work best together to fight the ongoing attack on the human cell by free radicals. They work in synergy, regenerating one another and so give our cells the best chance to stave of degeneration and the onset of chronic diseases, such as osteoporosis, Alzheimer dementia, Parkinson’s disease, high blood pressure, stroke.
Keep an eye out for my next article on nutritional supplementation and why I believe it is important as part of a healthy lifestyle.
1. MacWilliam, L. Nutrisearch Comparative Guide to Nutritional Supplements. 4th ed. Northern Dimensions. 2007
2. Passwater, R.A. The Basics of Antioxidents. All About Antioxidents.New York, NY: Avery Publishing. 1998
3. Strand, R.D. A New Concept in Nutritional Medicine, Healthy for Life Newsletter. 4(2), 2007
4. Strand, R. D. Bionutrition: Winning The War From Within. Rapid City, SD: Comprehensive Wellness Publishing. 1998