The popularity of the word “Antioxidant” has sky-rocketed in recent years due to prominent studies in the health world. Its claims, (rightly or wrongly) extend from helping prevent cancer, to aiding simple toothache. It’s clear how its significance in health has helped it develop into a highly acclaimed buzzword in the market today.
What is Oxidation?
Antioxidants are required in the body to slow progression or prevent diseases caused by oxidation. Oxidation is caused by “free radicals’ which are charged atoms or molecules, found internally and externally of our bodies. They are highly reactive, which is what causes damage in our body . Their high reactivity comes from their structure, which includes one missing electron in the outer shell. To understand why this is dangerous you must first understand the way these free radicals behave. Any atom with an incomplete shell of electrons will actively seek to complete their shell of 8 electrons. They will achieve this by either taking electrons from another atom (reducing the free radical) or giving away electrons (oxidising the free radical). It is more energy efficient to gain only one electron that it is to give away all 7.
When a free radical is loose in the body it causes oxidation of the DNA and vital components of cells by stripping them of their electrons. This causes metabolically unstable cells, oxidative stress and in many cases, disease . We naturally produce antioxidants within the body, from metabolic processes such a respiration during exercise. The most potent of which is the Hydroxyl free radical. However, the environments we find ourselves in also dictates our free radical counts. Activities such as smoking, drug taking, alcohol use and high exposures to sunlight can vastly increase our body’s free radical level [1,3].
There are a number of ailments and diseases associated with an imbalance of antioxidants and free radicals. Firstly, a high free radical count has been significantly linked to increased progression of the ageing process. Then there are more serious ailments, such as Heart disease, Cancer, Fibromyalgia, Arthritis and related Eye diseases. 
How many antioxidants do I need per day?
Getting enough antioxidants per day is all a numbers game. It is mainly a case of focusing on consuming certain types of fruit and vegetables to really boost those numbers. Every day it is advised to consumed 8,000-11,000 antioxidant units.
How can I boost my body’s natural levels of antioxidants?
Foods high in antioxidants
There are a few chemical categories that are responsible for the antioxidant properties of food, Such as:
- Anthocyanins, found in grapes, cranberries, blueberries, raspberries, bilberries and red wine.
- Catechins, are the primary active ingredients of black and green teas, but also red wine.
- Indoles, are found in sulphur containing compounds such as broccoli, sprouts, cauliflower and kale.
- Allium, again more sulphur containing compounds found in onion and garlic.
- Flavonoids, are typically found in green tea, apples, blueberries, tomato, bell peppers and parsley. 
The market of antioxidant-rich tablets is currently booming, the most popular of these supplements are Selenium, Vitamin C,E, Astaxanthin, Co-enzyme Q10 and Green Coffee Bean.
This is a trace element, required only in small quantities (50-200mcg) in the body. Selenium plays a vital role in the production of the antioxidant enzymes Glutathione Peroxidases (GPx). The most convincing evidence comes from Selenium’s role in protecting the heart. This is due to its application in reducing oxidative stress and reactive oxygen species (ROS). Selenium actively seeks out low-density lipoproteins (LDL) and reduces them, causing a decrease in risk of heart disease. In addition, the GPx actively seeks out and reduces tissue damage caused by lack of oxygen (Ischemic Reperfusion) [5,6].
A water-soluble vitamin with many great qualities, from being an antioxidant itself to helping to regenerate another potent antioxidant, Vitamin E. Vitamin C is hugely responsible for the protection of our eyesight, in particular, the lens. Vitamin C levels in the eye are 60 times of that found around the body. A study conducted on the intake of daily Vitamin C supplements found a 70% reduction in the risk of cataracts. 
Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin typically associated with its use in beauty products. Scientifically speaking it is a peroxyl radical scavenger, one of the most potent free radicals in the body. This antioxidant mostly works in the prevention of lipid peroxidation in cellular membranes. When lipid is oxidised it releases a peroxyl radical. By prevention of this process, it maintains integrity and structure of our cells and tissues. 
In the health industry Astaxanthin is named the “King of Antioxidants”. It is derived from the from the microalgae Haematococcus Pluvialis . Astaxanthin has been scientifically proven to be 6000 times more potent than Vitamin C and 550 times more potent than Vitamin E . Certain highly acclaimed animal studies showed that Astaxanthin had protective effects against cardiovascular events. 
Co-enzyme Q10 (Co-Q10) is known inside the body as Ubiquinone. It is a carrier protein in the process of respiration. Ubiquinone is present in all cells, particularly in the liver, sperm and heart cells . Co-Q10 has also been shown to have great effects in reducing periodontal (gum) disease. 
Green Coffee Bean
The Green Coffee bean is extracted from the Coffea plant. We typically know coffee as a brown beverage, yet in the health world, it is extracted from the immature green bean. Its active ingredient is called Chlorogenic acid (CGA), which is not present in the brown roasted form. Green Coffee has been clinically proven to reduce triacylglycerols in the blood which has a large effect on reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Antioxidants may not be seen or heard, but they sure do pack a health-boosting punch!
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- Preventative Health Guide. (2006). Understanding Oxidative Stres.Available: http://www.preventive-health-guide.com/oxidative-stress.html.
- Amherst College. (2005). The Better Health Channel. Available: http://www3.amherst.edu/~dmirwin/Reports/BetterHealth.htm.
- Greger, M. (2014). How to get enough antioxidants each day.Available: http://nutritionfacts.org/2014/12/04/how-to-get-enough-antioxidants-each-day/.
- Tinggi,U.. (2008). Selenium: its role as antioxidant in human health.Environmental Health and Preventative Medicine. 13 (2), Pg. 102-108
- Baljinnyam,E. et-al. . (2006). Oral pretreatment with ebselen enhances heat shock protein 72 expression and reduces myocardial infarct size..Hypertension Research-The Official Journal of the Japanese Society of Hypertension. 29 (11), Pg. 905-913.
- Telegraph Book
- Brewer, S.Dr. (2002). A-Z Supplements. In: Grapevine Publishing Services The Daily Telegraph Encyclopedia of Vitamins, Minerals and Herbal Supplements. . London: Constable & Robinson. Pg. 73-123.
- Mercola.J. (2012). Astaxanthin for Heart Health and Chronic Pain.Available: http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2012/09/12/dr-robert-corish-on-astaxanthin.aspx.
- Astaxanthin NZ. (2006). Astaxanthin Information . Available: http://www.astaxanthin.co.nz/.
- Gross, GJ. Hazen, SL. Lockwood,SF. (2006). Seven day oral supplementation with Cardax (disodium disuccinate astaxanthin) provides significant cardioprotection and reduces oxidative stress in rats.. Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry. 283 (1), Pg.23-30
- Prakash,S. et-al (2010). Role of coenzyme Q10 as an antioxidant and bioenergizer in periodontal diseases. Indian Journal of Pharmacology. 42 (6), Pg. 334-337
- Rodriguez de Sotillo, DV. Hadley, M. (2002). Chlorogenic acid modifies plasma and liver concentrations of: cholesterol, triacylglycerol, and minerals in (fa/fa) Zucker rats.The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry. 13 (12), Pg. 717-726.