An antioxidant vitamin is any vitamin that features antioxidant properties. This means that it is able to prevent cell oxidation by neutralizing the free radicals. As oxidation stress is present in many health conditions, learning about antioxidant vitamins could help you prevent many diseases. However, the activity of these substances is debated, and some researchers even claim that they can have harmful effects.
Antioxidant Vitamins and the Benefits They Bring
Beta carotene (provitamin A), ascorbic acid (vitamin C), and alpha-tocopherol (vitamin E) are the vitamins that display antioxidant properties. All of these are recommended in the prevention of cardiovascular diseases. Besides that, they can also regulate the low-density lipoprotein (bad cholesterol) levels in blood and improve the immune system.
Ascorbic acid may help in the prevention of heart coronary diseases, hypertension, chronic inflammatory diseases, and diabetes. Vitamin C is mostly found in citrus fruits, but berries, green peppers, tomatoes, and broccoli also abound in ascorbic acid. In fact, all fruits and vegetables contain some amount of ascorbate, but in order to assure the necessary intake, you must rely on the recommended foods.
Vitamin E, or alpha-tocopherol, is essential in the prevention of several types of cancer. When increasing the intake of this antioxidant vitamin, the Alzheimer’s disease develops slower, arthritis and sunburn are prevented, and male infertility is treated. Whole grains abound in vitamin E, and several other antioxidants, should not be missing from your diet.
Beta carotene, or provitamin A, offers protection against lung, breast, esophageal, bladder, and stomach cancers. Heart diseases and arthritis can also be prevented when using this antioxidant vitamin. This vitamin A derivative is found in high amounts in carrots, broccoli, yellow-orange vegetables, and sweet-potatoes.
While vitamins A and E are fat-soluble, vitamin C is water soluble. The first two get deposited in the adipose tissue and liver, and they can become toxic if taken in high amounts. Vitamin C, on the other hand, is water soluble and, despite also being stored in the liver, is not associated with toxicity.
Downsides of Antioxidant Vitamin Dietary Supplements
The effectiveness of antioxidant vitamin dietary supplements has not been proved yet. Because of this fact, American Heart Association recommends following a diet rich in such antioxidants, instead of taking dietary supplements. Besides not being able to help in the prevention of heart coronary diseases, these supplements can even have adverse reactions.
Studies published in the Journal of the American Medical Association revealed that treatments with beta carotene, vitamin E, and vitamin A are characterized by an increased mortality. At the experiment took part 29,000 male smokers in a period of 5 to 8 years. At the end, the number of subjects that developed lung cancer while taking antioxidant vitamins exceeded by 18 percent the group that took a placebo or nothing at all.
Should You Avoid Antioxidant Vitamins?
There is plenty of scientific proof that sustains the benefits brought by antioxidants. However, these substances are effective as long as they come from natural sources, such as fruits or vegetables. When switching to dietary supplements, the results become inconclusive and it is not uncommon for your condition to get worse.