As many as 10,000 DNA lesions occur in every cell in our body each day. The major cause are the free radical chain reactions which antioxidants are meant to stop. This figure accounts for the normal daily activity which our body are used to. Deviations from these 'normal' activities such as heavy physical exertion, long exposure to sunlight, etc. can produce more oxidative hits to our DNA.
Free radicals are by products of our own cell's process for converting food into energy. Our cell's energy manufacturing plant, the mitochondria, processes food by a series of electron exchange with oxygen as the final electron acceptor. Along the way, atoms or molecules with unpaired electrons (free radicals) escape the process. These free radicals will try to stabilize itself by stealing an electron from a nearby molecule which is the onset of the free radical chain reaction. DNA which are inside the cell are exposed to these free radical chain reaction.
Natural antioxidant defenses
Our cells are equipped with antioxidants to stop these free radical chain reactions. Glutathione, SOD (Super Oxide Dismutase) and Catalase are our natural antioxidants. They stop the free radical chain reaction before they can cause oxidative damage to the molecules inside the cells especially the DNA. It's not perfect however, there may be times that the free radicals produced exceed the amount of antioxidants present leading to oxidative damage done to DNA before they are quenched by antioxidants.
Damaged molecules or lesions in the DNA are removed by repair enzymes through excision and is excreted through the urine before possible mutation can occur. Not all damage can be repaired however, some are not detected and accumulates with age.
Damage to DNA can lead to mutations and can eventually lead to cancer
Antioxidants from other sources
Sometimes our endogenous antioxidants may be inadequate to handle the possible oxidative damage that could harm our cells. Potent antioxidants like vitamin C, Vitamin A, Vitamin E and Selenium can be ingested from fruits and vegetables to further protect our cells from oxidation. The Cancer Institute recommends at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day for efficient protection. It is estimated however that in America, only 9% of the population eat the required no. of servings.
Our lifestyle or our busy schedule may prevent us from eating the minimum required servings of fruits and vegetables to gain optimum health from antioxidants. In this case supplements can come in very handy.
How much daily antioxidants do we need?
Our bodies are exposed to constant possible oxidative damage and our metabolism processes is a big factor. Our own antioxidant defenses may not be adequate for these exposures. The recommended 5 servings of fruits and vegetables may be a good guideline to follow. Different fruits and vegetables have different antioxidant potencies aside from its nutrients to fuel our body for optimum health. The so called superfruits like mangosteen, acai berry, goji berry and pomegranate have higher antioxidant potencies than other fruits so it would be wise to consider them.
When opting for supplements, choose the ones which have different combinations of antioxidants like vitamin c, vitamin e, vitamin a or selenium. Some antioxidant supplements combine extract from different superfruits.
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