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Antioxidants as defenders: an interview with Kedar Prasad, Ph.D.


Q.: What are antioxidants?

A.: Antioxidants are substances chemicals that or can destroy radicals.

Q.: How do antioxidants affect the body?

A.: Since our bodies use oxygen, they generate free radicals, which are associated with all kinds of chronic diseases. These diseases include cancer first and foremost. Free radicals often gather in pockets around one's body. After a certain amount of free radicals have concentrated in one place, that area can turn cancerous. If a person's body has enough antioxidants, they can destroy such groups of free radicals before they form a cancerous lesion in the body.

Q.: What are free radicals?

A.: Free radicals are a product of a chemical reaction that is generated any time a person breathes oxygen. There are different kinds of free radicals, but they are all essentially extra atoms knocked from molecules during the process of blood oxidization. These unpaired electrons are highly reactive with a number of things, including membranes, DNA [deoxyribonucleic acid], fatty acids, and all parts of a person's cells. Free radicals are considered atoms with unpaired electrons, which makes them highly reactive.

Q.: Do free radicals contribute to how quickly a cell ages?

A.: Yes, that is what they do to a cell. Excessive amounts of free radicals have an aging effect on cells they come into contact with. As people age, they have more free radicals in their body and fewer antioxidants. I noted an important supplement in my book that is important to quench the body's need for antioxidants. Not only does it slow down the aging process; it also prevents further damage by free radicals.

Q.: How do antioxidants defend the body?

A.: Free radicals are destroyed by antioxidants, so the body is defended by having a higher presence of antioxidants than free radicals. The fewer free radicals found in the body, the slower the cells age. Some antioxidants are made in the body, and some must be consumed. Both antioxidants are important, not just for aiding free radicals but for other aging processes and disease defenses as well as inflammation. Antioxidants contribute to stopping inflammation and cancer at very early stages.

Q.: Is it possible to have too high a level of antioxidants?

A.: Yes, it is possible to have too many antioxidants. Certain kinds of antioxidants are toxic, much like having too much vitamin A at once. Most antioxidants in high dosages are not toxic to the body; the body simply gets rid of extra antioxidants and uses what is needed. It is important to note that one must not take antioxidants for any one specific thing at any one time; antioxidants do not work on a dosage-based level. In order to benefit from antioxidants the most, one must continuously take all types of antioxidants at regular intervals. Just taking one or two specific antioxidants could actually harm the body.

Q.: In what ways do antioxidants defend the body against ultraviolet fight, x-rays, and other forms of radiation?

A.: X-rays, gamma rays, and ultraviolet rays create free radicals in the body in a way that differs from oxidization. These free radicals are called mutagens, and they have the potential to cause cancer in a cell. These rays cause volatile effects in the body, such as inflammation and the generation of free radicals. Carcinogens from chemicals also contribute to the generation of free radicals. All of these effects create free radicals, and that in turn causes ailments in the body ranging from cancer to inflammation to mutations and the progression of disease. The introduction of antioxidants slows the processes that plague the body. If enough antioxidants are available, the process is obliterated.

Q.: Are mutagens stopped from replicating by the presence of antioxidants?

A.: Yes, mutagens have a substance in them to cause changes to DNA when they replicate. When a mutated cell goes unchecked for long enough, the cells it has replicated become a cancerous lesion in the body. Antioxidants prevent the damage from being done to the cell's DNA, therefore halting further mutations from spreading.


Q.: Which foods are highest in antioxidants?

A.: All kinds of dark-colored fruit or vegetables are high in antioxidants, such as broccoli, spinach, strawberries, carrots, and tomatoes. It is suggested that we need a healthy and balanced diet not only for nutritional benefits but also for a good lifestyle. Many factors contribute to a free radical count. Only through responsible lifestyle choices and a diet high in antioxidants can we keep the body's free radical population at bay. If you are taking a supplement, it is suggested that you also have a healthy diet consisting specifically of foods with high fiber and low fat. Don't smoke, get regular exercise, do not consume excessive amounts of one kind of food, and follow a number of recommendations I explain in my book.

Q.: Are antioxidants the key to anti-aging?

A.: Yes, this is a very important part of how antioxidants help the body. They slow down the aging process by destroying free radicals in the body.

Q.: Why has there been so little research on antioxidants if their health benefits are so widely known?

A.: Extensive research has been done on the benefits of antioxidants, but it has been conducted mainly on animal models. In the human model, researchers make the error of using only one kind of antioxidant in a specific area of the body. For example, one major study that was published years ago focused on tobacco smokers, stating that smokers have very high amounts of free radicals in their body. The error of that study was the researchers' use of only one kind of antioxidant on the subjects. As I said, this is a harmful thing to do; in turn, the antioxidant administered had a harmful effect on the subjects' bodies because it was not a diverse enough dose.

Q.: What is a pro-oxidant?

A.: When an antioxidant comes into contact with a free radical, after it has eradicated the free radical, it becomes a pro-oxidant. This is what happens when a specific kind of antioxidant is given in high dosage, such as in the tobacco smoker research study. When a free radical becomes oxidized, it turns into a pro-oxidant. Foods high in calories and fat contain pro-oxidants. A pro-oxidant works in the same way that a free radical does, that is, changing DNA, RNA [ribonucleic acid], causing mutations, and inflammation. Most clinical studies of antioxidants conducted in humans use specific kinds of antioxidants on specific kinds of people, and only small amounts of information can be gained that way.

Q.: How do antioxidants prevent cancer?

A.: Most of the cancer-causing agents, such as x-rays, ultraviolet light, gamma rays, and chemical carcinogens cause the same kinds of damage to the cell. This includes mutations, inflammation, as well as quickening the progression of disease. Antioxidants protect the cells by getting rid of free radical presences in the body and protecting the cells from further damage.


Kedar N. Prasad, Ph.D., is the author of Fighting Cancer with Vitamins and Antioxidants. Healing Arts Press, 2011.
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Publication:Nutrition Health Review
Article Type:Interview
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 22, 2011
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