Looking at the pros and cons of antioxidant supplements

Eating well is something everyone should be concerned with. A popular way of rounding out your diet is through supplements, but how valuable are antioxidant supplements to your daily diet?

Looking at the pros and cons of antioxidant supplements

Antioxidant supplements

Consumers collectively spend billions of dollars each year on nutritional supplements, all with the aim of living healthier lives. Antioxidants in particular can be important because they can lead to a lower risk of cancer and heart disease. But are they really all they're cracked up to be?

Breaking down what antioxidant supplements are

Supplements, as their name suggests, are add-ons to your diet to make it healthy and well-rounded. And oxidants, or free radicals, are chemically active particles created when your body undergoes natural and normal chemical processes.

However, oxidants can also be destructive in your body, leading to more rapid aging effects. If they're present in too big of a quantity, oxidants can attack your cells and potentially lead to things like:

  • cancer
  • damaged immune system
  • clogged arteries
  • nervous system malfunctions
  • increased risk of heart disease

Taking antioxidant supplements can be a way to counteract these negative effects. They can help your body fight the detrimental effect of oxidants by rounding out the missing vitamins, phytochemicals and carotenoids you may not be including in your natural diet.

How effective are antioxidant supplements?

It's not entirely clear just how beneficial antioxidant supplements can be to your overall health. Recent randomized clinical trials haven't garnered completely conclusive results to their advantages.

The U.S. Preventative Services Task Force looked at more than two dozen studies on antioxidant supplements where people were taking them just to try and lower their risk of cancer and heart disease. They found that with antioxidant supplements alone, the vast majority of people just weren't reaching their goals.

Further, researchers also found that people already suffering from cardiovascular diseases who were taking beta carotene or Vitamin E supplements increased their risk a little bit. One of the main things to keep in mind with antioxidant supplements is they protect cells, both healthy and otherwise.

Not all bad news about antioxidant supplements

However, this isn't to say that antioxidant supplements are necessarily or completely bad for you. For example, taking Vitamin E supplements may be better in the hopes of preventing cardiovascular disease, as opposed to trying to ward it off once it appear.

Supplements like 500 micrograms of Vitamin C, 400 IU of Vitamin E, 25,000 IU of beta carotene, 80 micrograms of zinc and/or two micrograms of copper a day can potentially help with the eye condition macular degeneration.

Interactions with other medications

Lastly, you should speak to your doctor before starting to take antioxidant supplements. This is especially the case if you're taking prescription medications, as antioxidant supplements can interfere with other substances. A few big interactions to watch out for include:

  • Vitamin E and statin drugs, which are used to reduce cholesterol levels
  • Vitamin E and blood clotting medications, which could potentially lead to bleeding emergencies

If you're concerned about the level of oxidants in your body, always voice  your concerns to your doctor. Another alternative to antioxidant supplements can be to eat foods high in antioxidants, like grapes, blueberries, dark leafy greens, walnuts, sweet potatoes, beans and orange vegetables.

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