Antioxidants have gained a lot of popularity in recent years as a way to improve health and prevent chronic diseases. These substances work by neutralizing free radicals in the body, which are unstable molecules that can cause cellular damage and contribute to the development of various diseases, including cancer, heart disease, and neurodegenerative disorders.
However, despite the potential benefits of antioxidants, it’s important to understand that taking high doses of certain supplements can have negative effects on health.
For example, studies have shown that supplementing with high doses of beta-carotene can increase the risk of lung cancer in smokers. Similarly, high doses of vitamin E supplements have been linked to an increased risk of prostate cancer and one type of stroke.
Furthermore, when a person takes in excessive amounts of strong reducing agents as antioxidants, they may develop a deficiency of several essential minerals like iron and zinc. This is because these minerals’ absorption is prevented due to the strong reducing agents’ ability to bind to them.
The exact amounts of antioxidant supplements and their exact preventive role in disease are not fully understood. While there is evidence that some types of fruits and vegetables protect against a number of cancers and other diseases, studies have shown that people who take regular antioxidant supplements may still develop oxidative stress-related disorders.
Differences in the amount and type of antioxidants in foods versus those in supplements may also influence their effects. For example, there are eight chemical forms of vitamin E present in foods.
However, vitamin E supplements typically only include one form, alpha-tocopherol, which may not provide the same level of protection as a diet rich in a variety of vitamin E forms.
While antioxidants are crucial in reducing oxidative stress, taking excessive amounts of certain supplements can lead to health risks such as cancer and mineral deficiencies.
It’s important to talk to a healthcare provider before starting any new supplements and to focus on a balanced and varied diet rich in a variety of fruits and vegetables to obtain the full spectrum of antioxidants and other beneficial nutrients.