Unless you live under a rock you surely have noticed antioxidant supplements heavily pushed in mainstream media, in food advertisements and certainly on the shelves of health food shops, supermarkets and of course the local chemist (pharmacy). It’s big business for the manufacturers.
It’s the buzz word and visible practically everywhere. So much so that consumers feel almost a sense of guilt or confusion if they, like their friends, are not taking a plethora of antioxidant supplements daily.
Consumers who know they are not getting enough fruits and vegetables in their diets think that popping a handful will be just as good. Then there are the total health enthusiasts who scrutinize every crumb, grain and leaf that passes their lips, take massive doses of vitamins and antioxidants throughout the day…and feel very smug about it.
But are you wasting your money?
You may be. Here’s an important quote from Dr. Ronald Prior of the US Department of Agriculture Research Service at Tufts University, Boston, Massachusetts:
A significant increase in antioxidants of 15 to 20 percent is possible by increasing consumption of fruits and vegetables, particularly those high in ORAC value. However, in order to have a significant impact on plasma and tissue antioxidant capacity one can ONLY meaningfully increase one’s daily intake by 3,000 to 5,000 ORAC units. Any greater amount is probably redundant. That is because the antioxidant capacity of the blood is tightly regulated. Thus there is an upper limit to the benefit that can be derived from antioxidants. Taking in 25,000 ORAC units at one time (as reputedly occurs with mangosteen) would be no more beneficial than taking in a fifth of that amount: the excess is simply excreted by the kidneys.
And there you have it from an expert – 3,000 to 5,000 ORAC units daily. Anything over that and your body is dumping it. Literally.
Reports show that every six weeks approximately 250,000 pounds of undigested vitamin and mineral pills are filtered out of sewers in Tacoma, Washington, and in Salt Lake City, every month 159 gallons of undigested pills. This is not just a US problem but a similar one in any western country.
A Better Way
Those recommended antioxidant units can be obtained easily and relatively inexpensively by eating a broad rainbow spectrum of fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and grains. And you will also benefit from the fibre, minerals and important fats.
Antioxidant supplementation from natural sources may be a good idea for those who don’t get enough from good dietary habits such as one-sided eating (mostly carbohydrates or mostly protein and next to no fruit and vegetables) or simply to get you back on the right track after years of unhealthy eating habits or an illness. However, buying those expensive megadose supplements is a waste of your money and simply doesn’t make sense. In fact, most of those supplements never get fully digested, which makes the argument for liquid antioxidants a good one.
Another factor to consider is that unless you are very well informed about proportionate supplementation, you may be doing more harm than good or at the least, be throwing your money away. Not all supplements should be taken in equal measure or at the same time, and yet others work synergetically in combination with other antioxidants and still others that are fat solubable, must be taken with some form of healthy oil.
Of course getting your antioxidants from a variety of natural foods is always a better choice because of the fibre and other beneficial properties that are bio-available. But if you do wish to take supplements, make certain they are from an organic source, are free of fillers and are from mixed sources and preferably liquid. Be aware of how many ORAC units each capsule or liquid measure contains to keep yourself within the body’s upper limit.
Remember, anything over 3,000 to 5,000 ORAC units daily and you may as well flush those pricy supplements away yourself…because that is what your body will do!