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Antioxidant Supplements

I remember going into stores like the General Nutrition Center (GNC) and sifting through what seemed like endless rows of bottles. So many pills to choose from! There were tons of antioxidant supplements, vitamins and a host of other things-all of which were supposed to be contributing to making you healthy. But how was I supposed to know what would benefit me? Surely, they all couldn't work, right?

Antioxidants, according to Wikipedia are molecules that are capable of slowing or preventing the oxidation of other molecules. Oxidation is a chemical reaction that transfers electrons from a substance to an oxidizing agent. Oxidation reactions are crucial to our existence, but they can also be damaging. This is why plants and animals maintain complex systems of multiple types of antioxidants, such as vitamin C, vitamin E as well as enzymes such as catalase, superoxide dismutase and various peroxidases. Wikipedia continues to explain that low levels of antioxidants can cause oxidative stress, which may actually damage or kill cells.

Most commonly, antioxidants are used in the form of various medications that are then used to help treat various medical problems (typically related to the brain). However, many people are not aware of the fact that the brain is extremely vulnerable to oxidative injury due to its high metabolic rate and elevated levels of polyunsaturated lipids. Antioxidants are currently under much scrutiny in the medical field. Among other uses, antioxidants are being considered in treatments for such neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease. In 2007, WebMD published an article, which revealed that a recent human study had revealed that use of the antioxidant supplements beta-carotene, vitamin E or vitamin A slightly increased a person's risk of death. The study also showed that there were no benefits or harm for using vitamin C supplements. The article explains how oxidative stress is caused by reactive "free radical" compounds circulating in the blood, which is a key factor in most diseases.

Antioxidants function to sweep up these free radicals, which is why so many people believe that taking antioxidants will improve/protect their health. However, it is not that simple and more studies need to be performed before any conclusive evidence can be drawn. There is nothing wrong with taking vitamins or a variety of other supplements; however, you should always check with your doctor if you are unsure about something. Remember, that your body is a temple. Anything you put into it should be healthy things to improve your chances at longevity in life. Continue to take your vitamins, if that's what you do. Just beware that they might not be as effective as you once originally thought. Also, don't rely on supplements to improve your overall health. Pay attention to what you are consuming, how much of it you are consuming as well as the time of day. Always treat your body well. Make sure that you are well hydrated and that you are getting enough exercise. These, not antioxidants alone, are the things that will benefit you the best in the long run.

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