Tuesday, 27 October 2015

What are antioxidants and their benefits ?

Quite often we hear about the benefits of antioxidants, their indispensability for maintaining a healthy body, their magical power to ward off cancer, Alzheimer etc. etc….  But most of the public do not have a clue as to what are these antioxidants. To know how the antioxidants work in our favor, we will also have to know about free radicals, which are being produced in our body.

What are antioxidants?

Antioxidants are chemical substances naturally found in Vitamin C, E, A, flavonoids, phenolic acids and beta-carotene in fruits, vegetables, nuts, pulses and cereals which inhibit oxidation and prevent cell damage. It is also found in synthetic form,  which is used as preservatives in processed food, but the effectiveness of synthetic antioxidants is not clear or established.  The antioxidant donates an electron to the free radical, thus neutralizing it into harmless. An antioxidant assist in countering oxidative stress, caused by free radicals.

What are free radicals?

Free radicals, also known as Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) are chemical species that are naturally produced in our body during metabolism as a byproduct. However, some free radicals are produced in the body due to external factors like pollution, alcohol, smoking, medications, pesticides, infections, poor diet, toxins, radiation etc.  If free radicals are not controlled, it can attack the healthy cells of the body, resulting in oxidative stress posing danger to our health. Oxidation damages the cell membranes, cellular proteins and DNA. Preventing or fighting oxidative stress can go a long way in defending our body against tumors, cancer, heart problems, premature aging and scores of other body ailments. Deficiency of antioxidants will lead to piling up of free radicals in the body. A healthy dose of antioxidants will ensure that free radicals are deactivated before they start attacking the cells.

Sources of antioxidants

All the berry fruits, especially blueberry, blackberry,  cranberry and straw berry along with other fruits like apples, plums and grapes are loaded with the goodness of antioxidants. Phytochemicals, a form of antioxidant is found in tea and wine. Ascorbic acid, commonly known as Vitamin C is a very effective antioxidant present in most of the fruits and vegetables like capsicum, broccoli, and green leafy vegetables. Pulses like red kidney beans and black beans are also loaded with antioxidants. Vitamin E is fat soluble and found in abundance in nuts, fish, seeds, spinach, avocado, mango etc. Vitamin A is profoundly present in carrots, tomato, sweet potato, peaches and apples. Flavonoids have their presence in red wine, tea, soya and tomato and watermelon has lycopene content.

Role of antioxidants in pregnancy and infertility

Several studies conducted on pregnant women has indicated that a healthy dose of natural antioxidants do play a role in smooth pregnancy and in preventing miscarriages. Oxidative stress can be a reason for causing miscarriages, and some researches suggests that antioxidants may be helpful in preventing Pre-eclampsia (High blood pressure and protein in urine, during pregnancy can result in a fatal condition called Pre - eclampsia, which can cause preterm delivery.) Oxidative stress is also known to affect male fertility adversely by causing defective spermatogenesis. So infact, anioxidants can aid in improving the quality and quantity of the sperm.

Researchers have different opinions on whether, artificial supplements can give the same result as natural antioxidants.  So to be on the safer side, it is better to consume variety of  brightly colored fruits and vegetables, which will ensure a healthy dose of antioxidants. 

Dr. Anita Mani
Infertility& Surrogacy Specialist at Gift IVF Centre
+91 484 2475031,  +91 484 2475034, 


Dr. Anita Mani is a renowned infertility specialist in south India with 18 years experience in ART (Assisted Reproductive Technology). Dr. Anita has successfully set up ART hospitals in Cochin and Bangalore,  along with her spouse  Dr. S Mani, who specialises in surrogacy. She completed MRCOG, from Royal College of Obstetrician and Gynaecologist  London, DFFP from  ART Warwick university and  worked in UK for 5 years. Dr. Anitha believes in scientific and ethical practice and is currently the director of Gift Gyno IVF centre Cochin and  Bangalore.  Apart from advanced laparoscopic surgeries, she is also an expert in various ART techniques including IVF, IUI, ICSI , donor egg / sperm  and surrogacy. Her proficiency is in genetic abnormalities and high risk pregnancies.

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