Antioxidants are molecules that donate or remove electrons from oxygen free radicals or reactive oxygen species (ROS), neutralising and preventing them from causing damage to our cells and tissues.
Reactive oxygen species (ROS) cause extensive and sometimes irreversible damage to DNA, proteins and cell membranes, accelerating ageing and predisposing us to cancer and diseases. ROS are produced by environmental factors (exogenous factors) like ultraviolet light, smoking and pollution and internal factors (endogenous factors) like our basic metabolic processes.
While the body has its own internal systems producing antioxidants to ‘scavenge’ harmful free radicals, these become less effective as we grow older. In addition to this our internal DNA repair mechanisms become less efficient. There is growing evidence to support the benefits of oral and topically applied antioxidants to supplement our declining natural antioxidant systems and in this way slow down the ageing process and protect us from gene mutations and cancers.
The most well known micronutrient antioxidants are Vitamin E, vitamin C and beta carotene (precursor of vitamin A). Our bodies cannot make these antioxidants which is why they should be part of our diet.
The list of antioxidants superfoods is constantly growing from green tea, berries, beans, veggies and fish, to the more exotic like sumac, acai and Indian gooseberries. An entire industry is focused on finding foods with higher antioxidant potential.
While the theory seems sound that oral antioxidants protect us from ageing,heart disease, cancer and dementia, we still don’t know enough to prescribe what specific antioxidant supplements need to be taken orally, and most importantly in what quantities to be of benefit. The amount of oral antioxidants that eventually get to the skin surface is also uncertain.