There are food supplements on the market with ingredients that contribute to the protection of cells from oxidative stress. But not all are equal. Here’s how to choose the right supplement.
The term antioxidant refers to a substance capable of contrasting, slowing down or neutralizing the formation of free radicals that are formed as a result of oxidation reactions (all chemical reactions that use oxygen, such as breathing and digestion). Free radicals are highly reactive molecules. For this reason, they are able to damage cells, DNA, proteins, lipids and all cellular structures.
Our organism contains numerous endogenous antioxidant mechanisms capable of protecting us from oxidative damage. Nevertheless, auxiliary antioxidant molecules are introduced into our body daily through food (especially fruit and vegetables). Due to an often incorrect lifestyle (exposure to aggressive sun rays, smoke and environmental pollutants) or during the course of bacterial or viral diseases or in case of fever, it may be necessary to increase our antioxidant defenses with the use of food supplements.
Be careful to choose the right supplement! Because of their function, antioxidant molecules tend to react quickly with those of the oxygen that surrounds us, consequently losing all health properties.
We must therefore make sure that the supplement taken:
- Has the certification of the antioxidant capacity test. The antioxidant capacity test is indicative of the quality of the raw materials used, of the manufacturing processes, up to the packaging. In the first analysis, in vitro assays are performed; among these, the AOAC (Association of Official Analytical Chemists) included the ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorption Capacity) test which, thanks to precise measurements, is able to classify the quality and effectiveness of a supplement or a food;
- Is packaged so as to guarantee its effectiveness over time. Blister packaging is preferred, as it protects each capsule or tablet in individual blisters shielded from light, humidity and air, rather than the single bottle which, every time is opened, could cause oxidation of the active ingredients. Alternatively, make sure that the tablets are coated with a protective film;
- Has a bibliography of studies that refer to the active ingredients or their mix. It is preferable to choose dietary supplements that contain individual substances or phytocomplexes that have been patented. This is because these substances make use of research and innovative extractive techniques designed not to degrade the active ingredient and both quantitative and qualitative analyzes and tests on their effectiveness;
- Has ingredients that use the biologically active and most bioavailable form (for example: the natural form of vitamins). Many vitamins have antioxidant activity and have been used for decades for this purpose. Over time and as research progressed, scientists have found ways to synthesize them in the laboratory to produce more, faster and at a lower cost. Remember, however, that the form naturally present in nature is more powerful and more bioavailable than the synthesized one. For example: vitamin B9 is in common use among pregnant women for its preventive action of congenital malformations, in particular those affecting the neural tube. It is often found on the market as Folic acid (synthetic form), less bioavailable, less effective and cheaper than Folate (natural form);
- Has extracts that are titrated in terms of the active ingredient. With the supplement, we have the advantage of being able to take a known quantity of the active ingredient daily (prescribed by the doctor or recommended dose by scientific research). We must therefore be sure to purchase a product that, on the label, specifies “dry extract” (d.e.) titrated in a specific quantity of active principle;
- Does not contain contaminants. Be careful to read the label carefully and check that there are no substances unnecessary for the claimed therapeutic activity or of non-natural derivation. For example, avoid dyes (E100 / E199) and sweeteners (E951 / E968) which have a mere “aesthetic” function. Rather, prefer natural antioxidants as preservatives (Vitamins C and E) and avoid synthetic ones such as BHA and BHT. Non-harmful substances such as microcrystalline cellulose, hydroxypropylcellulose or magnesium stearate, used as bulking agents and anti-caking agents, are allowed.