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Nov 15, 2012

Free Radicals and Your Antioxidant Defenses

Many health-conscious people are familiar with the term “antioxidant” and understand that it refers to nutrients such as vitamins C and E (and many others) that help to protect your body from “free radicals” (highly-reactive oxygen molecules) created during the normal course of metabolism (basically, any time we breathe oxygen, we also create free radicals). Unchecked free radical activity is what leads to the cellular damage known as “oxidation” and the cycle of inflammation and tissue dysfunction that follows.

If you’re overexposed to free radicals on a regular basis (i.e., polluted air, cigarette smoke, exhaust fumes) or your diet is less than optimal (low in fruits/veggies or high in processed carbs and sugars), then it is almost certain that you could benefit from a daily antioxidant supplement. Although the body increases its production of its own “endogenous” antioxidant enzymes (glutathione peroxidase, catalase, superoxide dismutase), supplemental levels of “exogenous” or dietary antioxidants may be needed to prevent excessive oxidative damage to cells throughout the entire body.

When it comes to antioxidant nutrition, your best approach is to eat 10–12 servings of brightly colored fruits and veggies throughout the day. In general, brighter is better, with each color group representing a major class of antioxidants from Red tomatoes (lycopene), Orange carrots (beta-carotene), Green tea (catechins), Blueberries (flavonoids) and Purple grapes or açai berries (anthocyanins). You want to try to get a few servings of each color group every day. If you have trouble consuming all the fruits and veggies that you need, and you choose to supplement your diet to boost your antioxidant levels, then keep in mind that it’s the overall collection of several antioxidants that is important, rather than any single “super” antioxidant. Often, you’ll see advertisements touting the “best” or “most powerful” antioxidant nutrient, but recent research clearly shows us that supplementing with too many isolated or unbalanced antioxidants may be just as bad for long-term health as getting too few antioxidants. Excessive levels of antioxidant supplementation (for example, too much isolated vitamin E), can actually lead to an increase in oxidation and tissue damage rather than a protection from oxidation.

Networking Your Nutrition

This concept of antioxidant balance—not too many and not too few—is what scientists refer to as the “Antioxidant Network”—that network being made up of 5 major classes of antioxidants: Vitamin E, Vitamin C, 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 in baseball terms. If you had the best homerun hitter in the world, but poor pitching and fielding, then your baseball team would not be the best team. Same thing with your antioxidant defenses. Green tea, or vitamin E, or astaxanthin, or beta-carotene are all wonderful antioxidants on their own, but combining them to create a network that performs together in different parts of the body and against different types of free radicals is the most effective way to go.

MonaVie products are formulated with the concept of “balance” in mind when it comes to your antioxidant nutrition. It’s this balance that keeps our bodies healthier and stronger and more able to respond to the demands of living and working and playing at the highest level possible.

About the Author: Shawn Talbott, MonaVie’s VP of Product Innovation & Education, holds a PhD in Nutritional Biochemistry (Rutgers) and a MS in Exercise Science (Massachusetts). He trains for iron-distance triathlons and ultramarathons in Utah—and is always sure to keep his antioxidant defenses topped off.

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