Antioxidants are substances that slow down free radical damage in the organism. They help maintain cells young for longer and better.
In our body there is a constant fight between “bad” free radicals and healthy cells. When free radicals are abundant, early ageing and diseases are likely to show up.
Antioxidant supplements can help our body neutralize harmful molecules, caused by unstable atoms, before they can attack healthy cells or even interrupt such harmful processes once they have began.
They protect the cells of our body and counteract the destructive activity of the unstable molecules.
Stay healthy via anti-ageing and reach old age
means finding a way to delay the ageing processes while keeping life quality for as long as possible. Life expectancy is increasing, as the maximum age registered has been 122 years.
Unfortunately this is not possible for everybody, but we can follow and anti-ageing routine to improve our quality of life.
Ageing process causes
Lifestyle, unhealthy diets and pollution have an impact on people’s health and their life expectancy. Smoking, drinking, overweight and sleeping problems are the main causes. Stress, traffic and noisy environments also contribute to the ageing process.
Free radicals, the main cause of the ageing of body cells
Free radicals have a significant effect on the biochemical ageing, as they damage body cells. The terms "free radicals" and "antioxidants" can come across as strange terms for many people, and thus not be taken very seriously.
If you really want to understand theeffects of antioxidants on unsteable molecules, it has to be looked at from a scientific point of view.
We’re all made of atoms. Atoms that have an external shell of electrons, are peaceful and inactive and do not suffer any chemical reaction, enjoying a happy life in the organism.
However, atoms with no electron shell, are unhappy and unstable. They’re anxious to get electrons and stay happy and calm. These unstable atoms are called free radicals.
Free radicals tend to move fast, constantly trying to steal an electron from another molecule near them. This way, the molecule loses an electron and turns into a free radical. This process does not ever stop.
Having certain amount of free radicals is not bad, as they are constantly generated by metabolic processes in the body, This is normal. The problem comes when the number of free radicals in the body is too high.
Oxygen free radicals are the most common. They are oxygen atoms with one electron missing. Similarly, to how oxide or rust damages our cars, it also damages our organism. When oxygen free radicals start damaging the body, oxidative stress is produced.
What does free radicals cause?
Free radicals are produced through breathing, eating or any normal daily life habit. The body produces free radicals facing any stressful situation.
While there are obvious situations that cause free radicals, such as environmental pollution, smoking, stress, noise, lack of sleep, obesity and bad eating habits; there are also a lot of "healthy" activities that produce free radicals, such as intensive physical exercise.
External signs of aging show on skin. Wrinkles show up because cellular renovation decreases from 25 years old on. Furhermore, skin is less flexible over the years, which is explained, among other thing by the fact that collagen breakdown in our skin layers.
UV rays, for example, damage skin and accelerates ageing processes as free radicals harm cells.
They also have a very negative impact within our body, as they damage our body cells, affecting their functioning and producing their deterioration.
Currently, there are many diseases and health issues associated with a high number of free radicals in the organism.
Antioxidant supplements come to the rescue
So, how to convert a free radical into an inoffensive molecule? The only way is by giving the free radical the electron it is missing.
What substances contain electrons? Yes! Antioxidants. They are the ones in charge to stop and slow down oxidative processes provoked by free radicals.
Remember: Free radicals provoke oxidation and antioxidants prevent oxidation. Antioxidants provide the free radical with the electron they need, converting it in a stable oxygen molecule.
When performing physical exercise, the body generates a high amount of free radicals because it undergoes a higher energy expenditure and oxygen consumption. Therefore, if you are a sportsperson, you must increase your consumption of fruits and vegetables as they are the main providers of antioxidant substances.
You may also include in your daily diet the intake of antioxidant dietary supplements.
Antioxidant dietary supplements:
- Plant extract: such as curcumin, green tea, carotenoids, astaxanthin, lycopene, spirulina, chlorella.
- Super fruit: spanish maquis, acai, berries, blueberries, camu camu, acerola, aronia berries, pomegranate, goji, cocoa, grape seed extract (OPC)
- Amino-acids: L-carnosine
- Vitamins: B vitamins, vitamin E, vitamin C
- Oligoelements like selenium
- Fatty acids: Omega-3, capsules with high EPA and DHA content, olive oil, hempseed oil, fish oil
ORAC, antioxidant power measurement:
ORAC means Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity. It measures the capacity of the substance to neutralise oxygen free radicals, in a test tube.
In essence, ORAC is a laboratory test to measure antioxidant activity with any substance, classifying it in a determined scale. The higher the ORAC value, the stronger the antioxidant properties.
The National Institute on Aging developed the ORAC method, and then, the Uniteted States Department of Agriculture and Brunswick Laboratories have refined the procedure of the ORAC essay, analizing different food products to determine the ORAc values.
While ORAC science is very wide, if you’re looking for antioxidant food, you should choose the ones with the highest ORAC.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends taking from 3,000 to 5,000 ORAC units a day. Actually, 80% of population consumes less than 1,000 a day.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, taking 5 pieces of fruit and vegetable a day provides 1,750 ORAC units.
Fruit and vegetables contain the highest ORAC levels. Every 100 g: apples 218, bananas 221, blueberries 2,400, fresh acai berries, 5,500.Acai berries freeze-dried provide 70,000 every 100 g.
Anthocyanins: powerful antioxidant supplements to fight free radicals
Have you ever seen some beautiful violet flowers? And a dark red grape or a bright Fuji apple? These contain anthocyanins.
Anthocyanins are flavonoid pigments that rae produced by plants and fruit. These anthocyanins provide the plants and fruits their beautiful colours, although their properties go much further than affecting physical appearance.
Anthocyanins act as a solar filter for plants, the shining colour of the fruit atracts animals, who eat these fruits and thus disseminate the seeds. The antioxidants properties of the anthocyanins make the fruits and plants have those valuable striking colours.
Fruit like acai berries which are exposed to intense sunlight, suffer stress due to the ultraviolet light because it causes free radical formation.
For this reason acai berries produce a great amount of anthocyanins, that have intense antioxidant properties and can neutralize the unstable atoms.
This is the interesting part: Anthocyanin properties are maintained even once eaten. This is the reason why fruit with higher pigmentation levels provide higher ORAC value. They are full of Anthocyanins!
Anthocyanins and the French paradox
French gastronomy contains high amounts of cheese, coffee, nicotine and white flour. Providing this diet, one could think that , a high percentage of the French population would suffer from cardiovascular diseases. When in fact it is all the opposite.
French population have a really low rate of cardiovascular diseases despite the fact that they have a cardiotoxic diet. This is known as the french paradox.
Researches have concluded that the key to the "French Paradox" lies in the anthocyanins.
In France, red wine is very popular and it is believed that the red grape which has a high amount of anthocyanins, is probably the responsible for the good health of the french people. Even though red wine is rich in anthocyanins, acai berries contain 30 times more anthocyanins than red wine.
Tips to improve life expenctancy:
- Include antioxidant fruit and vegetables in your diet
- Take food products and dietary supplements containing antioxidants and/or a high ORAC value, such as curcumin, Acai, Maqui, and multivitamins
- Drink green tea instead of coffee
- If you do a lot physical exercise, increase your antioxidant intake
- Do not over eat and prevent overweight
- Avoid taking sugar and animal fat
- If you drink alcohol, drink only small amounts
- Do not smoke
- Do relaxation exercises to relieve stress
You may buy antioxidants at parapharmacies and sport nutrition stores such as HSNstore.com where there is a wide range available formed by the best brands of the sector.
You must hav in mind that antioxidant nutritional supplements do not substitute a balanced diet or healthy lifstyle. It is very important to consult your doctor in case of taking any other type of medication.
Antioxidants are, in a few words, molecules capable of preventing or reducing the oxidation of other molecules. This chemical reaction, caused by the transfer of the electrons contained in a substance to an oxidizing agent, derives in the production of free radicals that deteriorate cells through chain reactions. Additionally, we must make mention of the fact that they are reducing agents, that are commonly found in the shape of thiols and polyphenols, and that are found in food products such as coffee, garlic, cauliflower...