Antioxidants May Be Helpful For Preventing Cardiovascular Disease Because They Antioxidants: Health benefits and nutritional information

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Antioxidants May Be Helpful For Preventing Cardiovascular Disease Because They

We include products we think are useful for our readers. If you buy through links on this page, we may earn a small commission. Here’s our process.Antioxidants are substances that can prevent or slow damage to cells caused by free radicals, unstable molecules that the body produces as a reaction to environmental and other pressures.They are sometimes called “free-radical scavengers.”The sources of antioxidants can be natural or artificial. Certain plant-based foods are thought to be rich in antioxidants. Plant-based antioxidants are a kind of phytonutrient, or plant-based nutrient.The body also produces some antioxidants, known as endogenous antioxidants. Antioxidants that come from outside the body are called exogenous.Free radicals are waste substances produced by cells as the body processes food and reacts to the environment. If the body cannot process and remove free radicals efficiently, oxidative stress can result. This can harm cells and body function. Free radicals are also known as reactive oxygen species (ROS).Factors that increase the production of free radicals in the body can be internal, such as inflammation, or external, for example, pollution, UV exposure, and cigarette smoke.Oxidative stress has been linked to heart disease, cancer, arthritis, stroke, respiratory diseases, immune deficiency, emphysema, Parkinson’s disease, and other inflammatory or ischemic conditions.Antioxidants are said to help neutralize free radicals in our bodies, and this is thought to boost overall health.Antioxidants can protect against the cell damage that free radicals cause, known as oxidative stress.Activities and processes that can lead to oxidative stress include:mitochondrial activityexcessive exercisetissue trauma, due to inflammation and injuryischemia and reperfusion damageconsumption of certain foods, especially refined and processed foods, trans fats, artificial sweeteners, and certain dyes and additivessmokingenvironmental pollutionradiationexposure to chemicals, such as pesticides and drugs, including chemotherapyindustrial solventsozoneSuch activities and exposures can result in cell damage.This, in turn, may lead to:an excessive release of free iron or copper ionsan activation of phagocytes, a type of white blood cell with a role in fighting infectionan increase in enzymes that generate free radicalsa disruption of electron transport chainsAll these can result in oxidative stress.The damage caused by oxidative stress has been linked to cancer, atherosclerosis, and vision loss. It is thought that the free radicals cause changes in the cells that lead to these and possibly other conditions.An intake of antioxidants is believed to reduce these risks.According to one study: “Antioxidants act as radical scavenger, hydrogen donor, electron donor, peroxide decomposer, singlet oxygen quencher, enzyme inhibitor, synergist, and metal-chelating agents.”Other research has indicated that antioxidant supplements may help reduce vision loss due to age-related macular degeneration in older people.Overall, however, there is a lack of evidence that a higher intake of specific antioxidants can reduce the risk of disease. In most cases, results have tended to show no benefit, or a detrimental effect, or they have been conflicting.There are thought to be hundreds and possibly thousands of substances that can act as antioxidants. Each has its own role and can interact with others to help the body work effectively.“Antioxidant” is not really the name of a substance, but rather it describes what a range of substances can do.Examples of antioxidants that come from outside the body include:Flavonoids, flavones, catechins, polyphenols, and phytoestrogens are all types of antioxidants and phytonutrients, and they are all found in plant-based foods.Each antioxidant serves a different function and is not interchangeable with another. This is why it is important to have a varied diet.The best sources of antioxidants are plant-based foods, especially fruits and vegetables.Foods that are particularly high in antioxidants are often referred to as a “superfood” or “functional food.”To obtain some specific antioxidants, try to include the following in your diet:Vitamin A: Dairy produce, eggs, and liverVitamin C: Most fruits and vegetables, especially berries, oranges, and bell peppersVitamin E: Nuts and seeds, sunflower and other vegetable oils, and green, leafy vegetablesBeta-carotene: Brightly colored fruits and vegetables, such as carrots, peas, spinach, and mangoesLycopene: Pink and red fruits and vegetables, including tomatoes and watermelonLutein: Green, leafy vegetables, corn, papaya, and orangesSelenium: Rice, corn, wheat, and other whole grains, as well as nuts, eggs, cheese, and legumesOther foods that are believed to be good sources of antioxidants include:eggplantslegumes such as black beans or kidney beansgreen and black teasred grapesdark chocolatepomegranatesgoji berriesGoji berries and many other food products that contain antioxidants are available to purchase online.Foods with rich, vibrant colors often contain the most antioxidants.The following foods are good sources of antioxidants. Click on each one to find out more about their health benefits and nutritional information:Effect of cookingCooking particular foods can either increase or decrease antioxidant levels.Lycopene is the antioxidant that gives tomatoes their rich red color. When tomatoes are heat-treated, the lycopene becomes more bio-available (easier for our bodies to process and use).However, studies have shown that cauliflower, peas, and zucchini lose much of their antioxidant activity in the cooking process. Keep in mind that the important thing is eating a variety of antioxidant-rich foods, cooked and raw.Share on PinterestDrinking a cup or two of green tea is thought to provide health benefits because of the antioxidants.The following tips could help increase your antioxidant intake:Include a fruit or a vegetable every time you eat, meals and snacks included.Have a cup of green or matcha tea every day.Look at the colors on your plate. If your food is mostly brown or beige, the antioxidant levels are likely to be low. Add in foods with rich colors, such as kale, beets, and berries.Use turmeric, cumin, oregano, ginger, clove, and cinnamon to spice up the flavor and antioxidant content of your meals.Snack on nuts, seeds, especially Brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, and dried fruit, but choose those with no added sugar or salt.Or, try these healthy and delicious recipes developed by registered dietitians:There is no set recommended daily allowance (RDA) for antioxidants, but a high intake of fresh plant-based produce is considered healthful.It is worth remembering that, while studies link the consumption of fruits and vegetables with better overall health, it is not clear whether how far this is due to the activity of antioxidants. In addition, caution is needed regarding supplements.The National Institutes of Health (NIH) warn that high doses of antioxidant supplements can be harmful.A high intake of beta-carotene, for example, has been linked to an increased risk of lung cancer in smokers. A high dose of vitamin E has been found to increase the risk of prostate cancer, and the use of some antioxidant supplements has been linked to a greater risk of tumor growth.Antioxidant supplements may also interact with some medications. It is important to speak with a health provider before using any of these products.Overall, research has not proven that taking any particular antioxidant as a supplement or through a food can protect against a disease.There may be some benefit for people at risk of age-related macular degeneration, but it is essential to seek advice from a doctor about whether to use supplements, and which ones to use.TakeawayFree radicals have been linked to a range of diseases, including heart disease, cancer, and vision loss, but this does not mean that an increased intake of antioxidants will prevent these diseases. Antioxidants from artificial sources may increase the risk of some health problems.As a result, it is important to seek out natural sources of antioxidants, in the form of a healthful diet.Consuming fruits and vegetables has been linked to a lower rate of chronic diseases, and antioxidants may play a role. However, it is unlikely that consuming added antioxidants, especially in processed foods, will provide significant benefits.In addition, anyone considering taking antioxidant supplements should speak to a health provider first.Read the article in Spanish.

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Do Antioxidants Prevent Heart Disease and Cancer? The Answer May Surprise You

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Do Antioxidants Prevent Heart Disease and Cancer? The Answer May Surprise You

Do you take antioxidants to prevent heart disease and cancer?

Millions of people do. Antioxidants such as Vitamin C, Vitamin E, selenium, beta-carotene, coenzyme Q-10, among several others, are among the most common supplements I see on my patient’s medication records.

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Do Antioxidants Prevent Heart Disease and Cancer? The Answer May Surprise You

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Do Antioxidants Prevent Heart Disease and Cancer? The Answer May Surprise You

The typical reasons for taking antioxidants are promoting health, slow aging, and preventing heart disease and cancer.

But do they really work?

The Antioxidant Story
The story of antioxidants makes a lot of sense. Our normal metabolism creates potentially dangerous substances called free radicals. We can also be exposed to free radicals from toxins like cigarette smoke, excessive sun exposure, and pollution.

The problem with free radicals is that they can cause cell damage (called oxidative stress), leading to health problems like heart disease, dementia, diabetes, and cancer.

Antioxidants are potentially helpful because they have been shown in laboratory studies to neutralize free radicals. Also, many healthy foods like vegetables, fruits, nuts, and berries are high in antioxidants. This information led to the idea that antioxidant supplements could help prevent heart disease and cancer.

Early in my medical career, the antioxidant idea was trendy among physicians based on some early observational studies that were promising.

During my Mayo Clinic training, I was blessed to have some of the brightest physicians in medicine as teachers. And several of them regularly recommended antioxidants to their patients, such as Vitamin E, Vitamin C, Coenzyme Q-10, and resveratrol.

However, physicians know that observational studies are not strong science. They can be wrong because there are too many variables that can change the outcome that aren’t controlled. We have also learned many times that logical ideas about how the body works don’t always prove correct in real life.

Therefore, to truly test the idea that antioxidants promoted better health, we needed well-designed research studies to know for sure.

The results were a surprise to many.

Antioxidant Research
Dozens of randomized trials looking at the antioxidants have now been completed.

A few examples include:

A study of over 14,000 male physicians found no difference in prostate cancer or other cancers in those taking vitamin C and E. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19066368/

A study of over 35,000 men showed selenium had no effect and vitamin E increased prostate cancer.
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21990298/

A study of over 39,000 women showed no effect on heart disease or cancer in those taking vitamin E.
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15998891/

A study of over 8,000 women showed no difference in developing diabetes in those taking vitamin C, vitamin E, and beta-carotene.
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19491386/

A study of over 29,000 male smokers showed no difference in lung cancer with Vitamin E but an INCREASE in lung cancer in those taking beta-carotene. https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJM199404143301501

Despite the promise, higher-quality studies have not shown any benefit to taking antioxidant supplements, and in some cases, they have resulted in harm.

The full story of antioxidants is not known yet. Although the evidence is solid that vitamin C, vitamin E, and beta-carotene do NOT improve health outcomes (and in the case of beta-carotene and vitamin E, maybe increase risk), there are still several unknowns about antioxidants.

Would other antioxidants be effective? Are we giving the right dose to the right people?

Until we have those answers, here is my advice for my patients about antioxidants:

Get your antioxidants from real food. There is magic in real food we can’t create in a pill.

Be wary of health claims for antioxidant supplements.

Be especially wary when the claims come from those who financially benefit from you taking supplements.

There are proven ways to dramatically lower your heart disease and cancer risk.

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