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Smiling woman with antioxidant foods in her hair

The 7 most powerful antioxidants

Antioxidants have been very popular for several years because of their ability, real or perceived, to help fight against ageing. But which of them offers the greatest potency?

Glutathione

A pseudopeptide composed of three amino acids (glycine, cysteine and glutamate), glutathione is produced naturally by the liver and is therefore found throughout the body. Hence it is considered an ‘endogenous antioxidant’: unlike the majority of powerful antioxidants, this molecule is already naturally present in the body.

It is widely considered by naturopaths to be the most powerful, naturally-occurring antioxidant. According to the dictionary of the French Academy of Medicine, “glutathione is present in the majority of animal and plant cells” and plays an “important role in protecting proteins and lipids against peroxides and the potentially harmful effects of free radicals”. Glutathione peroxidase, for its part, is defined as an enzyme which catalyses the reduction of hydrogen peroxide by the dehydrogenation of glutathione. This enzyme “plays an essential role in protecting cells against peroxides and free radicals”(1).

Beyond the age of 45, however, the body’s glutathione production decreases significantly. This production is also affected by intense exercise and certain disorders. That’s why naturopaths often recommend taking a course of glutathione supplements (like Reduced Glutathione).

Astaxanthin

The most powerful carotenoid naturally present in a wide range of fish and seafood such as salmon, trout, shrimps, as well as plankton and krill, astaxanthin is a red-orange pigment produced mainly by algae. That’s why it is found in practically the entire marine food chain: it is astaxanthin which is responsible for the pink colour of salmon and shellfish, etc.

This pigment may be 10 times more effective at neutralising singlet oxygen, responsible for ageing of the skin following exposure to damaging UV, than beta-carotene which is itself considered to be one of the best molecules for this. That is why astaxanthin is considered by naturopaths to be one of the most potent antioxidants.

At the beginning of 2020, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) confirmed that astaxanthin supplementation at levels of up to 8mg a day could be used without any risk to health (2). In fact to date, no contraindications have been identified for astaxanthin supplementation (Astaxanthin).

Riboflavin (vitamin B2)

Scientists first isolated Vitamin B2, or riboflavin, in milk in 1933 and it is therefore also known as ‘lactoflavin’. This vitamin is necessary for the production of a number of enzymes involved in producing energy and protecting cells against oxidative stress. It is also required for the synthesis of glutathione-reductase, an enzyme that enables glutathione to be regenerated.

Riboflavin is resent in many foods including dairy products, and according to European health authorities, plays a role in (3):

  • normal energy metabolism;
  • normal nervous system function;
  • healthy skin and mucous membranes;
  • normal vision;
  • normal red blood cells;
  • normal iron metabolism;
  • reducing fatigue ;
  • protecting cells against free radicals (antioxidant effect).

It’s also worth noting that the body’s requirements for vitamin B2 increase with caloric expenditure. That is why the RDA for riboflavin is higher for sportspeople, children, pregnant women, etc. B2 is found in vitamin B supplements such as Coenzymated B Formula.

Selenium

Selenium is present in soil to varying degrees depending on the region, and is therefore found at differing levels in the food chain as a whole. It is an important trace-element in the body as, along with vitamin E, it plays a role in glutathione peroxidase activity, mentioned above.

Selenium is a powerful antioxidant which, according to the EFSA, supports (4):

  • normal sperm production;
  • healthy hair and nails;
  • normal immune system function;
  • normal thyroid function;
  • protection of cells against free radicals (antioxidant effect).

That’s why taking a selenium supplement (like L-Selenomethionine) can be very useful for combatting oxidative stress.

Vitamin C

Ascorbic acid (or vitamin C) is undoubtedly the best-known of all the antioxidant vitamins. It is present in a great many foods but the best sources are not necessarily those you might think: it is found at high levels in peppers, parsley and cabbage.

According to the EFSA, vitamin C plays a role in (5):

  • normal collagen production necessary for the healthy function of blood vessels, bones, cartilage, skin, teeth and gums;
  • normal energy metabolism;
  • normal nervous system function;
  • normal mental function;
  • normal immune system function
  • reducing fatigue ;
  • regenerating vitamin E in its reduced form
  • digestive absorption of iron
  • protection of cells against free radicals (antioxidant effect).

Vitamin C features in many dietary supplements designed to fight fatigue and restore energy, etc. as is the case with our supplement Triple C.

Vitamin E

Present at high levels in plant oils (and thus in oilseeds), vitamin E naturally occurs in eight different forms, the best-known and most powerful of which is alpha-tocopherol. Vitamin E acts as a highly-effective antioxidant.

Again according to the EFSA (6), vitamin E plays a role in protecting cells against free radicals, provided that the product contains at least 1.8mg of vitamin E per 100g and that it is natural-source vitamin E, such as that in our supplement Natural E 400.

Zinc

Last but not least, zinc is a trace-element essential both for the activity of many enzymes in the body, as well as for growth, the immune system, skin renewal, hair renewal, etc. European health authorities have noted that zinc contributes to:

  • normal DNA synthesis;
  • normal acid-base metabolism;
  • normal metabolism of food, of carbohydrates, fatty acids, vitamin A;
  • protein synthesis;
  • normal intellectual functioning;
  • normal fertility and reproduction;
  • maintaining healthy skin, hair and nails;
  • normal vision;
  • maintaining healthy bones;
  • normal immune system function;
  • cell division;
  • protecting cells against free radicals (antioxidant effect) (7).

Yet older people are often deficient in zinc as a result of poor absorption in the gut. This may not only impair immune system function but may also promote the development of age-related macular degeneration. That’s why many older people take a zinc supplement, such as Zinc Orotate.

Because of the role it plays in the metabolism of macronutrients and synthesis of proteins, many sportspeople, particularly bodybuilders, also choose to supplement with zinc.

References

  1. http://dictionnaire.academie-medecine.fr/
  2. https://efsa.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.2903/j.efsa.2020.5993
  3. EU Register on nutrition and health claims, EFSA, 2014
  4. EU Register on nutrition and health claims, EFSA, 2014
  5. EU Register on nutrition and health claims, EFSA, 10/2015
  6. EU Register on nutrition and health claims, EFSA, 10/2015
  7. EU Register on nutrition and health claims, EFSA, 10/2015

Comments

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1 comment

Vogelberg J.

29/10/2020

Selenium is beneficial and also has some cancer preventing effect on animals, but in case of overdosing selenium significantly increases the risk of cataract development.

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