Antioxidants have become one of the core drivers of good health. Like vitamins and minerals, your body needs antioxidants to stay healthy. The real question is, how many antioxidants are good for you, and is there a limit to how many you can take?
If not, does this mean that the more antioxidants you take, the healthier you become? Find out the answers to those questions in this article.
Subscribe to our Newsletter!
Receive selected content straight into your inbox.
What do antioxidants do?
To better understand the work of antioxidants, you must first learn what they counter, which are oxidants.
Oxidants, also known as “free radicals, ” are natural byproducts your cells create when converting food into energy. Natural oxidants are typical and are part of regular body function. However, they are also considered chemicals and can cause damage to the body. Free radicals reportedly steal electrons from molecules in your body, negatively affecting you when you lose too many electrons.
Examples of how free radicals function
Free radicals, or oxidants, are more common than some people know. They can be triggered by simple things like sunlight, which causes the formation of free radicals in your skin and eyes. Other harmful ways free radicals form are cigarette smoke, pollution, alcohol, and stress. You can also spark the development of free radicals in your body from the food you eat or what you drink aside from just alcohol.
How free radicals can be damaging
While free radicals aren’t harmful, the reaction they cause when they bump into any molecules can cause damage. These free radicals, or oxidants, cause an oxidation reaction similar to what causes iron to rust or an apple to turn brown. This causes damage to the body and can even cause deteriorating functions as your body ages.
Dr. Emma Becket, a University of Newcastle molecular nutritionist, said that free radicals could even damage your DNA.
The effects of free radicals on your DNA
Once free radicals affect your DNA, this can cause cell mutations. Cell mutations can also lead to cancer and other sicknesses. Free radicals can also cause oxidation in bad cholesterol. This results in a higher risk of collecting in the artery walls, hardening blood vessels, and more. With more bad cholesterol being oxidized, this would place you at risk of cardiovascular disease.
The role of antioxidants
Now that you understand what oxidants do, it’s easier to paint a picture of how antioxidants work. They fight oxidants and allow your body to stop or slow the harmful oxidation process. Antioxidants prevent the free radical chain reaction, stopping oxidants from stealing electrons from one molecule after another. This is because once free radicals steal from one molecule, the molecule, too, becomes a free radical in return.
Can you take too many antioxidants?
The question is, is there a limit to how many antioxidants your body can take?
The answer is — everything in excess isn’t good. This means mega-high doses of antioxidants can also harm your body. Research has shown that taking extremely high antioxidant supplements can even place you at risk of cancer. This is because these adopt an opposite effect in excess, making them act like pro-oxidants.
Like everything, visiting a dietician or nutritionist is essential to understand whether you should limit your intake of certain vitamins or minerals. For example, a specific amount of antioxidants are healthy for your body; when taken in excess, this could have a negative effect.
Because of this, taking the recommended average dose is essential, or asking the doctor for specifics on how much you can take before assuming you can take high doses is necessary. The average minimum of antioxidants is 3,000 to 5,000 ORAC units daily.
Ask your dietician or nutritionist for a more specific daily minimum and maximum for what amount of antioxidants your body can take.