Antioxidants = Anti-Aging
There is this big hit in the anti-ageing and rejuvenation market, known as “antioxidants”. They can be mostly found in the form of dietary supplements and cosmetic products and they are currently connected to (anti)ageing more than anything else. Moreover, numerous studies have shown that apart fighting the effects of ageing, antioxidants also reduce fatigue and muscular degeneration; prevent degenerative diseases like Parkinson’s, heart diseases and even cancer. These molecules boost cell division and replacement, slowing down the effects of ageing and age related diseases.
So, if you’re unsure of what antioxidant is, here is a brief introduction into the science of antioxidants:
What are antioxidants?
Researchers state that, basically, the antioxidants are a type of molecules that manage to stabilise the free radicals, thus preventing them from doing any more cell damage.
Okay, that answers one question, but what are, then, the free radicals? Well, it all begins with the aggressive and stressful environment that we live in, both from a physical and a mental point of view. Pollution, UV rays, smoking, unhealthy foods, stress… these are all factors that attack our bodies on a cellular level, changing the molecular conformation within the cell.
Such a damaged cell stops working as it normally should and it starts attacking other cells by oxidising and damaging them. This is the way free radicals, or oxidants, are created and this is how they affect our bodies in a chain reaction that leads to early ageing and early development of age related diseases. According to Jeffrey Blumberg, Ph.D., professor of nutrition and director of the antioxidant lab at Tufts University in Boston, free radicals can damage any cells that get in their way.” So, the free radicals attack the skin, the muscle and bone tissue, the blood vessels, the nervous cells and so on, weakening the immune system and making our bodies more prone to disease.
But here comes the good news! In this fight against the free radicals, we have these great molecules, called antioxidants, on our side. What is so great about antioxidants is that they can reach our body cells at a molecular level, as well, and they can actually reverse the destructive process started by the oxidants. Antioxidants can fight free radicals and heal the cells from the damage they suffered.
Are there different types of antioxidants?
There is a great variety of antioxidants and many are still undergoing clinical studies. Among the most studied antioxidant is Vitamin C, best known for its capacity to boost the immune system and for the role it plays in the science of rejuvenation. Vitamin C is also known to protect against cancer by blocking uncontrolled cell division and to protect the blood vessels – a six-year study conducted by the Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, concluded that out of the 5,197 people who participated in the study, those who consumed higher amounts of Vitamin C had the lowest risk of suffering from a stroke.
Vitamin E and coenzyme Q10 are also powerful antioxidants that are best known for their anti-ageing effects, but they also boost the immune system and protect from heart diseases. Selenium fights cancer by empowering the genes needed to fight carcinogens and by helping the body to produce its own antioxidants. A study conducted by the Cornell University and the University of Arizona on over 1,000 patients with skin cancer showed that the patients taking a daily supplement of selenium reduced their risk of dying from any type of cancer by 18%.
Isothiocyanates are doing a great job in protecting your lungs from the damage made by smoking and smog, and carotenoids work wonders in protecting your eyes and skin. There is also lycopene, one of the most powerful known antioxidants. Numerous population studies show people with higher levels of lycopene have a visibly improved long term health profile.
Of course, this list does not stop here, but the main idea is that there is a great variety of antioxidants out there and they are all our allies in the fight against free radicals.
Where can you find antioxidants?
It is interesting to know that our bodies produce most of the antioxidants that keep us healthy and on track. As humans, we developed this defense mechanism to protect ourselves from the internal oxidative stress. However, as we are now permanently being bombarded with free radicals from all directions, we can’t expect the amount of antioxidants our bodies can produce to be enough to fight them all. So, according to professor Blumberg, we developed a second defense mechanism, by becoming able to use antioxidants from external sources.
Food is the most important source of antioxidants. High levels can be found in vegetables like broccoli, spinach, sprouts, carrots, etc. or in fruits like berries, plums, grapes and so on. It is said that the richer the colour of the fruit, the more antioxidants it contains. But this is not only about the greens. High levels of these fighter molecules can also be found in red wine, beef, and even chocolate, or coffee.
A trend that invaded the market, but also a very good source of antioxidants, is food supplements. They can literally be found everywhere and they are as various as you can imagine. From pills based on fish oil, to herbal supplements and mixtures of vitamins, you can find supplements for any indication, for any necessity or deficiency. However, as with any other thing, excess in never good and the intake of very high doses is not recommended. Studies are still being made regarding this subject.
Antioxidants are not only able to fight from within, but scientists managed to create antioxidant formulas than can be absorbed through the skin. This created a whole new niche for the cosmetic market and skin care products.
Probably, the most popular are the anti-ageing creams, rich in Vitamin E, A and coenzyme Q10. These creams fight and erase wrinkles, leaving you with a fresh and rejuvenated skin. There are also the face lotions and night creams that are of really good use, as free radicals do not take breaks at night. Applying these creams help repair your skin overnight, so that you will wake up having a fresh and healthy look. Also, one of the best cosmetic products for the health of our skin is the sunscreen. Their formulas incorporate powerful antioxidants that block the damaging effects UV rays have on the skin.
So, as you can see, at a molecular level our bodies are a constant battle field between the free radicals and the antioxidants. And the best we can do to help the good guys win is to lead a healthy lifestyle and rationally increase our intake of antioxidants through the foods and supplements we consume and the cosmetics we use.