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Jul 25, 2012

Antioxidant Balance (part 2 of a 3-part blog series)

What to Look for in an Antioxidant Supplement?

As mentioned in part 1 of this blog series, that antioxidant nutrients are important for controlling the activity of the highly reactive oxygen molecules known as free radicals because unchecked free radical activity is what leads to the cellular damage known as “oxidation” and the cycle of glycation and inflammation that follows with additional damage and dysfunction.

When it comes to antioxidant supplementation, however, it is the overall collection of several antioxidants that is important, rather than any single “super” antioxidant. This is what scientists call the “Antioxidant Network.” This network is made up of 5 major classes of antioxidants: vitamin E (family), vitamin C (family), Carotenoids, Bioflavonoids, and Thiols—and your cells need representatives from each and every one of these categories in order to mount the strongest antioxidant defense.

Think of it this way: if your baseball team had the best home run hitter in the world, but poor pitching and fielding, then your baseball team would not be the best team. The same thing applies when it comes to your antioxidant defenses. Green tea, or açai, or vitamin E, or pine bark, or beta-carotene, and lots of other nutrients are all wonderful antioxidants on their own— but combining them to create a network that works together in different parts of the body and against different types of free radicals is the most effective way to go. Some of the top picks are: açai, beta-carotene (natural), lycopene, lutein, vitamin E (natural), vitamin C, alpha-lipoic acid, green tea, selenium, zinc, grape seed extract, and pine bark extract—but there are many, many other choices of nutrients and herbal extracts and plant extracts that possess wonderful antioxidant properties.

We see many marketing claims about certain antioxidant nutrients as the "best" or "most powerful" antioxidant (usually based on ORAC test tube measures), BUT I prefer to see antioxidant products include at least one member of each of the main categories within the Antioxidant Network.

The Antioxidant Network is the "family" of antioxidant nutrients that are found inside, outside, and between cells. It is important to get a wide variety of different types of antioxidants in the diet because different antioxidants counteract damage by different types of free radicals—and within different cellular compartments.

In part 3 of this blog series, I’ll talk more about the main components of the Antioxidant Network. Stay tuned!

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