Researchers asking if we're overdoing the antioxidants

OPINION: After all these years of hearing the wonderful benefits of antioxidants from anti-aging boosters to cancer fighting warriors, could we have got it wrong?

What if too much of a good thing is actually bad?

New research is questioning just that: if we are overdoing the antioxidants, and are they blocking the natural defences of free radicals.

Yep, you heard it - could free radicals actually be good for us?

So what is a free radical?

When we eat food it is broken down and energy is manufactured within the mitochondria of a cell.

But in the conversion of food to energy, oxygen is required, and this is referred to as an "oxidation process" where free radicals are produced.

And what do we know about antioxidants?

There are three main categories - enzymic antioxidants - which our own body produces.

Vitamin-derived antioxidants - found in Vitamin C, E, and A, and phytochemical type antioxidants - produced by plants, to protect themselves from damage or harm from UV rays, insects, fungi or bacteria, such as resveratrol in red grape skins and tannins in tea.

But according to Nobel Prize-winning geneticist James Watson, it is these same antioxidants that are actually causing some cancers, and shortening the life span of cancer sufferers.

That in cancer, it is free radicals or oxidation that is desired and which are responsible for most cancer cells being destroyed.

While in the well-respected Journal of Physiology, it was found that with the addition of the antioxidant, resveratrol to "aged men" it physically blocked the positive health impacts that exercise had on their heart, blood pressure, cholesterol and oxygen uptake.

So, what's the conclusion?

Are antioxidants good or bad?

Are free radicals in fact the newest discovery in the cancer-fighting arsenal?

The evidence is still pointing towards the benefits of eating a diet rich in antioxidant foods found naturally in fruits, vegetables, grains, herbs and spices.

That perhaps we are overdoing it on the supplement versions of antioxidants, and this is where issues are arising.

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