Antioxidant supplements especially during the Covid-19 pandemic have become a popular supplement trend with multiple claims to help support your body during the pandemic for prevention and to help treat Covid.
With all this hype, you may be wondering, do antioxidant supplements actually work? In this article, we will take a look at the science behind these common supplements.
What are they?
Antioxidants are substances that help to prevent or reduce cellular damage. These substances can be man-made or found naturally in food products such as fruits and vegetables.
Common examples of antioxidants are:
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin E
How do they prevent or delay damage?
Antioxidants work by scavenging free radicals in the body. In your body due to cellular processes and in times of stress or illness, your body creates free radicals as a byproduct. Free radicals damage your cells and can increase inflammation. This damage and increase in inflammation inhibit recovery and can cause additional medical conditions.
Antioxidants work by scavenging the free radicals, thus preventing them from damaging your cells.
Are they important?
Antioxidants also can help to reduce damage from illnesses such as covid and enhance recovery.
Sources of Antioxidants
Antioxidants are found naturally in foods such as fruits and vegetables. Different fruits and vegetables will contain different antioxidants, which all have a different role to play in your health. This is why it’s important to have a diet filled with variety, it ensures that your body receives the different antioxidants.
Some examples of antioxidants and their food sources are:
- Vitamin C- oranges, mangoes, broccoli, spinach, and blackcurrants
- Vitamin E- nuts, seeds, whole grains, and vegetable oils
- Lycopene- tomatoes, grapefruit, watermelon
- Lutein- green leafy vegetables
- Selenium- lean meat, whole grains, and seafood
Do the supplements work?
Before you pop an anti-aging supplement filled with antioxidants, let’s look at the clinical evidence available.
There have been multiple studies regarding the use of antioxidants, using various different antioxidants in different health conditions. Whilst antioxidants in foods are beneficial, most studies haven’t found the use of supplemental antioxidants substantially beneficial.
Studies focusing on the use of supplemental vitamin C, E, Selenium, and beta-carotene found that these supplements did not reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer, and cataracts. Whilst vitamin E supplements were associated with fewer deaths from cardiovascular effects, they did not reduce the overall death rate.
There are multiple potential reasons behind the results in these studies, one main reason being that these supplements do not contain the same ingredients as natural sources of antioxidants. Fruits and vegetables contain not only antioxidants but other beneficial food components such as fiber and phytonutrients. The combination of antioxidants with these additional nutrients may result in a beneficial effect.
The dosage of antioxidants in these supplements is also substantially higher than the antioxidants found naturally in food. You may think that the higher the concentration, the better right? Well not exactly, for some antioxidants such as vitamin C, your body can only handle a certain amount, any amount higher and the vitamin C is passed through your urinary system. Some antioxidants may also be toxic at higher amounts due to storage mechanisms in the body.
Another important thing to consider if you would like to try antioxidant supplements is that supplements are not FDA regulated. This means that the ingredient and dose of a supplement may not be what the label is saying.
To ensure, you are actually getting the product that is on the label, rather opt for a reputable brand and a brand that preferably third party checks their supplements. This will reduce the chances of having a low-quality product.
Should I take them?
Although there is not a lot of scientific evidence on the benefits of supplemental antioxidants, there is anecdotal evidence that these supplements can help enhance recovery and improve pain and inflammation.
If you would like to try them and see the benefits or lack of benefits for yourself, use a reputable brand and seek the opinion of your healthcare professional.
The world of antioxidant supplements does seem promising with multiple claims of these supplements providing relief for multiple medical conditions. Although these claims are promising, the scientific evidence is lacking and more studies are needed to validate the benefits.