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Monday, November 8, 2010

What is Antioxidant?

Before we can understand how antioxidant work in our body and help to protect us against chronic degenerative disease, let us have a look on the meaning of the word “antioxidant”

Anti = against, opposition to, corrective in nature

Oxidant = commonly known as free radical, is the substance produces in the human body during the million of cells process that use oxygen during the oxidative reaction. This oxidants is then causes the damage to cells, tissues, DNA, proteins and fats which lead to chronic disease (heart disease, allergic reaction, cancers, lung disorder, low immune defence, arthritis and etc).

Thus the word antioxidant means “against” the “free radical” generated in our bodies.

First we need to understand that there is no way that we human can avoid ourselves from the damage of free radical, we can only minimise their destructive effect to a vey minimum level that allow our body’s natural anti-oxidants to work on the sewerage duties.

(Certain enzymes in our bodies act as the natural antioxidants which are Superoxide Dismutase, Catalase, and Glutathione. Superoxide Dismutase changes the structure of oxidants and breaks them down into hydrogen peroxide. Catalase in turn, breaks down hydrogen peroxide into water and tiny oxygen particles or gasses. Glutathione is a detoxifying agent, which binds with different toxins to change their form so that they are able to leave the body as waste).

Unfortunately in our modern lifestyle, we are constantly exposed ourselves to risk factors that make our body non-stop in producing free radical such as:

  • - stress
  • - pollution(air, water, sun ray)
  • - non healthy diet (high carbo and fatty but low fibre diet or alcoholic beverages)
  • - smoking (2nd hand smokers)
  • - Radiation(handphone, TV, invisible wireless broadband connection)
  • - Medicines

As a result from above risk factors, we are continuously seeing the “modern” illness happens to the people surrounds us and even to ourselves. Thus that is where the health supplement comes into our diet.

For each nutrient that available in our diet, it is determined by RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance) which is defined as the average daily dietary intake level that is sufficient to meet the nutrient requirement for a healthy individual. According to US Food and Nutrition Board(FNB), each individual RDA is vary depends on gender and age. Due to the modern lifestyle and unhealthy diet, majority individual is getting their daily nutrients which are lower than their required RDA.

Most health supplement in the market is targeting on the oxidative reaction at cellular level to reduce the destructive effect of free radical, they are mainly group under “antioxidant” category.

Source of antioxidants:

There is wide range of antioxidant category such as:

  • - Carotenoid Terpenoids (eg lutein, zeaxanthin, beta carotene)
  • - Phenolics and their esters (eg chiroric acid, gallic acid)
  • - Vitamin cofactor and minerals (co-enzyme Q10, Iodine, Manganese)
  • - Flavanoid polyphenolics (cyanidin, hesperidin,quercetin, isoflavone phytoestrogen)
  • - Other non flavanoid polyphenolics (xanthones)
  • - Vitamins (A, C, E)

So where can we get our antioxidant supply?

It can be gained from food mainly vegetables and fruits, view the list below:

Vitamin A and Carotenoids - Carrots, squash, broccoli, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, kale, collards, cantaloupe, peaches and apricots (bright-colored fruits and vegetables!)

Vitamin C - Citrus fruits like oranges and lime etc, green peppers, broccoli, green leafy vegetables, strawberries and tomatoes

Vitamin E - Nuts and seeds, whole grains, green leafy vegetables, vegetable oil and liver oil

Selenium - Fish & shellfish, red meat, grains, eggs, chicken and garlic

Other common antioxidants:

Flavonoids / polyphenols - soy, red wine, purple grapes or concord grapes, pomegranate, cranberries, tea.

Lycopene - Tomato, pink grapefruit, watermelon.

Lutein - Dark green vegetables such as kale, broccoli, kiwi, brussels sprout and spinach.

Lignan - flaxseed, oatmeal, barley, rye.

So how much do we need to take all the above food to meet our RDA?
Based on the age of 35yo female, the estimated RDA for each nutrient is around the figures shown at this table:

vitamin A = 700 (micro-gram)
vitamin C = 75 (mg)
vitamin D = 5* (micro-gram)
vitamin E = 15 (mg)
vitamin K = 90* (micro-gram)
thiamin = 1.1 (mg)
riboflavin = 1.1 (mg)
niacin = 14 (mg)
vitamin B6 = 1.3 (mg)
foliate = 400i (micro-gram)
vitamin B12 = 2.4 (micro-gram)
pantothenic = 5* (mg)
biotin = 30* (micro-gram)
choline = 425* (mg)

calcium = 1,000* (mg)
chromium = 25* (micro-gram)
copper = 900 (micro-gram)
fluoride = 3* (mg)
iodine = 150 (micro-gram)
iron = 18 (mg)
magnesium = 320 (mg)
manganese = 1.8* (mg)
molybdenum = 45 (micro-gram)
phosphorus = 700 (mg)
selenium = 55 (micro-gram)
zinc = 8 (mg)
potassium = 4.7* (g)
sodium = 1.5* (g)
chloride = 2.3* (g)

One important point is that we need to be clear on the key concept of antioxidant research which is:

  • An intake of antioxidants in excess of the Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) is probably necessary for optimal health protection.
  • A combination of antioxidants may be more effective than single antioxidants.

Thus, based on the optimum level of synergistic effect of antioxidants to repair and prevent the oxidative reaction in our bodies, basically this is what we may need:


Point to ponder: Are we able to consume that amount of food listed in above table everyday??? And whether it is cost effective???

In my next blog, we will look into how the free radical cause the damage to our cells and how antioxidant work to protect it in scientific cellular level. Stay tune!


Merinda Chua said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Deb S said...

Very good information Merinda. You really did a lot of research and presented it well.

Deb Simpson

Anonymous said...

Agree with Deb. You have provided very good information and we understand more about Antioxidant. Look fwd to read more. :)

Moon Loh said...

Agree with Deb. You have provided very good information and we understand more about Antioxidant. Look fwd to read more. :)