NOVEMBER 6, 2008
(STAR) Eating or consuming antioxidant-rich foods can actually help delay signs of aging.

“Ours cells use antioxidants to work against the effects of harmful environmental factors and free radicals that evade our body’s defenses and can cause internal breakdown and cellular aging,” says Dr. Miguel Ramos Jr., PhD, director of the Geriatric Center of St. Luke’s Medical Center and president of the Philippine Society of Geriatric Medicine.

Foods rich in antioxidant include fruits, vegetables, nuts, certain meat products, and coffee.

A study done at the University of Scranton showed that these foods are the number one sources of antioxidants in the American diet.

According to Ramos, while the body requires oxygen, it can also cause harm through the natural process called oxidation, said to be the primary catalyst for much of the damage associated with aging.

“This process produces potentially harmful by-products. In cells, these by-products are called oxygen free radicals, also known as reactive oxygen species,” he explains.

Free radicals can cause extensive damage to proteins, cell membranes, DNA, and the mitochondria, which is the main source of energy.

“The damage made by free radicals makes the mitochondria less efficient in generating energy. Free radicals also produce bodily changes associated with aging,” Ramos says.

Aside from the body’s natural way of acquiring free radicals, these molecules can also be obtained through exposure to harmful environmental factors like smoking, ultraviolet rays from the sun, chemical toxins, and other pollutants.

Antioxidants, as the name suggests, counter oxidation. These are molecules capable of slowing or preventing the oxidation of highly reactive molecules. They neutralize free radicals to inhibit them from further harming the cells.

Some researches indicate that antioxidants have the ability to hinder free radicals from inflicting damage to cells and affect the body’s genetic material that lead to irregular growth and cell reproduction.

Other studies likewise say that antioxidants help prevent the effects of free radicals such as the development of many diseases and visible signs of aging.

Some antioxidants are found inside the body. Ramos says, “The body produces natural antioxidants like glutathione peroxidase, catalase, and superoxide dismutase (SOD) that counteract the negative effects of oxidation.”

But as a person gets older, he produces fewer antioxidants. This is the reason some health experts advise adding antioxidants to the diet.

Ramos points out that the defense system of antioxidants also includes common nutrients like Vitamins C and E which are commonly found in fruits, vegetables, nuts, and certain meat products.

Berries, tomatoes, carrots, cherries, and grapes are known for their rich antioxidants content like Vitamins A, beta-carotene, and lycopene.

Coffee, meanwhile, is famous for its polyphenolic antioxidants. Ramos says, “It has been reported that coffee contains thousands of various antioxidant compounds.”

While antioxidants help delay aging, Ramos clarifies that people cannot solely rely on consuming antioxidant-laden foods to feel and look young.

To stay youthful inside out, people are still advised to lead a healthy lifestyle by getting enough sleep, proper exercise and having the proper diet.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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