Antioxidants They are nature’s weapon against harmful molecules called “free radicals,” which the body continually creates as cells do their work. These unstable molecules can damage our cells and cause diseases such as cancer as we age.
Some antioxidants are produced by the body, while others, such as beta-carotene from carrots, lycopene from tomatoes, and polyphenols from grapes, come from a person’s diet. All are believed to prevent and limit cellular damage, or “oxidative stress,“caused by free radicals.
But considering all their benefits, is it possible to have too many antioxidants?
Studies show that people whose diets are full of antioxidant-rich fruits, vegetables, and legumes tend to have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and premature death from any cause. Therefore, it is easy to think that increasing your antioxidant intake (by taking supplements, for example) would be beneficial. But compared to foods, supplements make it easier to exceed recommended doses of antioxidants, which can actually be harmful.
Related: Does vitamin C help with colds?
The side effects of high doses of antioxidants range from mild to very serious. On the milder end, high amounts of beta-carotene are known to turn skin yellow or orange, which is visually striking but not harmful in itself. Excessive vitamin C ingestion can cause digestive problemssuch as diarrhea, nausea and abdominal cramps.
More seriously, high doses of beta-carotene can increase the risk of lung cancer and cardiovascular diseases in people who are already at high risk for these diseases, such as current and former smokers and people who have been exposed to asbestos. There is also evidence of animal and human tissue studies suggesting that antioxidants may stimulate the growth and spread of some cancers.
Furthermore, high doses Vitamin E Supplements have been shown to interact with certain medicationssuch as aspirin, warfarin, tamoxifen, and cyclosporin A. They have also been linked to a increased risk of premature death in people with chronic diseases.
These studies suggest that yes, having excessive amounts of antioxidants can be bad for your health, but why? One reason is that low amounts of free radicals can be helpful.
“There is much evidence indicating that free radicals have beneficial roles in physiological processes.” Ismail Laherhe told LiveScience in an email. At low concentrations, free radicals They help cells grow and are part of the body’s defense mechanism against disease.. They are also involved in Metabolism or degradation of drugs and participation in communication between cells..
However, “if too many antioxidants are consumed, these normal and essential processes can be altered and cause undesirable effects.” James Kehrersaid in an email to Live Science, professor emeritus and dean of the Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of Alberta and adjunct professor at the Faculty of Pharmacy at the University of New Mexico.
How can we make sure we don’t overdose on antioxidants? Avoid supplements and eat a healthy diet, Kehrer recommends.
“When someone eats a balanced diet that includes enough fruits and vegetables, they will consume the right amount of antioxidants,” Kehrer said. “Dietary supplements are rarely if ever necessary, except in prolonged absence of an adequate diet or in some types of diseases.” For example, they may recommend supplements if you have ataxia with isolated vitamin E deficiency (AVED), a rare inherited neurodegenerative disorder.
Exercise is also important, Laher noted. The body is capable of generating its own antioxidants, and Exercise increases this production of built-in antioxidants. in the muscles, heart and liver.
If you are considering taking an antioxidant supplement, discuss it with a health professional. It is essential to know the dosages of the supplement and how they align with your daily dietary intake, because excessive consumption can lead to toxicity. It’s also important to know if a supplement could interact with a medication you take.
When it comes to antioxidants, it is important to consider a concept called “hormesis“, which is when a low dose of a substance has a beneficial effect but a high dose has a toxic effect. Or, as Kehrer said, “if a little is good, more is NOT better.”
This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide medical advice.
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