Antioxidant Overload – Too Much of a Good Thing?
Nearly everyone has heard about the benefits of antioxidants, those vital nutrients that neutralize free radicals in the environment and promote a long, healthier life. Antioxidants reduce the amount of oxidative stress put on the body, protecting the cells from damage. Studies have found that antioxidants can help reduce damage that leads to the development of signs of aging and decrease the risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease. Because of their benefits, antioxidants are one of the most popular types of supplements for men and for women, and many people strive to consume as many foods that contain them as possible.
Too Much of a Good Thing
Ensuring that your body receives the recommended dose of antioxidants per day is essential to good health, but research has found that taking an excessive amount of antioxidants can actually be hazardous. In one study at Kansas State University, animals fed an excessive amount of antioxidant-rich food suffered from impaired muscle functioning. There is also evidence that an antioxidant overdose can cripple your immune system and leave you vulnerable to infections.
The reason why an antioxidant overload can have a damaging effect on the body is because of the way that antioxidants neutralize free radicals. In order to do so, an antioxidant must give up one of its electrons. This stabilizes the free radical and makes it unable to react with the cells of the body, but it also leaves the antioxidant able to accept electrons from other ions in the body. When this happens, the antioxidant becomes a radical capable of doing damage just like the particle that the antioxidant first neutralized. The likelihood of your body accumulating a large amount of antioxidants that have converted to radicals increases proportionately to the amount of antioxidants that you consume, so if you’re overdosing on antioxidants every day, you’re most at risk.
A Balancing Act
Getting the adequate amount of antioxidants every day is a delicate balancing act, but it is possible to manage. Try to stick to the daily-recommended amounts of antioxidants unless otherwise directed by your physician. Studies have indicated that receiving antioxidants from foods instead of supplements is less likely to result in an overdose, as your body is better able to process and use the nutrients that come from what you eat. By adding more leafy green vegetables, citrus fruits, nuts and peppers to your diet, you can typically meet your daily antioxidant requirements without having to take a supplement.
If you're concerned about whether or not you're in antioxidant overload, discuss the topic with your doctor. He or she can give you advice about your body's individual needs and ensure that your diet and supplement regimen are healthful and safe.