- Lack of sleep (<7 hours per night)
- Increased stress level
- Environmental toxins
- Advancing age
- Increased energy requirement (athletes)
Antioxidants - their reputation precedes them and yet many do not know what these plant molecules are. But chances are when you know what it is, you know how to use it to your advantage!
First, antioxidants are a diverse group of different substances that prevent oxidation by free radicals in your body.
Free oxygen radicals - dangerous to cells and tissues because of their oxidizing properties – are captured and neutralized by antioxidants, protecting the body from oxidative stress.
First of all, the basic concepts should be clarified here.
What are free radicals? Free radicals are molecules that have an unpaired electron, which increases their chemical reactivity enormously. Their goal is to substitute their missing electron and for that, they have to steal one, which is called oxidation.
As a result, they react with the body's own highly complex molecules, such as DNA or proteins, which can damage them and interfere with bodily functions.
What is oxidative stress? This is a state of excessive oxidation that already shows cellular symptoms and can damage the body.
So what happens when the body's own molecules are affected by oxidation?
Let us take DNA damage as an example. Our DNA is a code that contains all the information necessary to keep our body running.
If the DNA is damaged, there is a risk to the entire body and metabolism because its control unit has been damaged. And any change to a perfect system means a risk of disease.
How are free radicals formed?
The formation of free radicals is a normal process in the metabolism of every human being – or animal. In particular, the formation of ATP, i.e. the generation of energy in the mitochondria, is one of the sites where free radicals originate, since a transfer of electrons is part it.
Sometimes the electron transfer chain fails and the particles become unpaired radicals. Some of them are neutralized in the mitochondria – but some are able to escape.
In any case, radical formation and oxidation increase with advancing age.
How are radicals eliminated?
- Antioxidants can act as radical scavengers by stabilizing radicals and thus rendering them harmless, such as tocopherols (vitamin E).
- Other antioxidants protect important molecules by being oxidized themselves, such as vitamin C.
- The third group, called antioxidant synergists, support full-fledged antioxidants by regenerating substances they need for their activity.
Well-known plant radical scavengers include, for example, OPC or resveratrol.
Vitamins E and C, beta-carotene, Q10, and selenium are also active as antioxidants.
How many units of antioxidants effectively protect me from radicals?
There is no generally valid recommendation1 for a daily minimum intake of antioxidants, this only exists for the vitamins and trace elements among them.
Vitamin C: 80 mg per day
Vitamin E: 12 mg per day
Vitamin B2: 1.4 mg per day
Zinc: 10 mg per day
Selenium: 55 µg per day
*according to the EU nutrient reference values2
In general, of course, the more antioxidants from vegetables and fruit you eat in a day, the better.
The quality of the source and the bioavailability of the antioxidant are particularly important here.
What is certain is that the amount needed within a day is variable based on the stress that affects the body4.
Thus passive smoking, infections, air pollution or lack of sleep increase the need strongly since these risk factors make the balance lean towards oxidation.
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- „Deutsche Gesellschaft für Ernährung (DGE): Gemüse und Obst – Multitalente in Sachen Gesundheitsschutz. 7. Juni 2005“
- Michael Greger M.D. FACLM . https://nutritionfacts.org/2014/12/04/how-to-get-enough-antioxidants-each-day/. Nutritionfacts.org 2014 December 4th.
- Darvin ME, Patzelt A, Knorr F, Blume-Peytavi U, Sterry W, Lademann J.. One-year study on the variation of carotenoid antioxidant substances in living human skin: influence of dietary supplementation and stress factors. J Biomed Opt.2008 Jul-Aug;13(4):044028.