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Immunity, Cancer and Skin Protection, Oh My! The Power of Antioxidants

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Antioxidants are a powerful health food Wavebreak Media/Thinkstock

What is an antioxidant?

According to WebMD, antioxidants are, “vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that protect and repair cells from damage caused by free radicals.”

What is a free radical?

The National Institute of Health describes free radicals as “molecules produced when your body breaks down food, or by environmental exposures like tobacco smoke and radiation. [They] can damage cells, and may play a role in heart disease, cancer and other diseases.”

With ever increasing exposure to pollution, toxins, radiation, and chemicals in today’s world, it is growing more important to take preventative measures towards protecting our health, and the health of our loved ones.

Although it is best to use food as medicine by obtaining antioxidants through fresh fruit, vegetables, and other food sources, they can also be obtained from supplements.

Antioxidants can be found in many forms including beta-carotene, lycopene, vitamins A, C, and E, as well as glutathione, CoQ10, lipoic acid, and flavonoids, among others.

These can be found in a variety of food sources including green, leafy vegetables, a variety of fruits, nuts, and other whole food sources.


Cancer.gov cites the first large randomized trial on antioxidants and cancer risk study in China published in 1993. This study investigated the effects of multiple antioxidants on individuals at high risk for gastric cancer.

The study concluded that supplementing with a "combination of beta-carotene, vitamin E, and selenium" significantly reduced the incidence of gastric and overall cancer.

Anti-Aging and Skin Protection:

Antioxidants can be used for sun protection when taken orally or applied topically. One study showed that individuals who ate tomato paste (plentiful in the antioxidant lycopene) on a daily basis, had 33 percent more protection against sunburn than those who did not.

One study showed that although you may utilize antioxidants for sun protection both topically and orally, “the effect from using the cream lasted for only 10 days after stopping treatment, [while] the results from taking the supplement were sustained for up to 5 weeks.”

The researchers conclude that taking both oral and topical anti-oxidants "provided optimal form of protection".


Protecting the body against free radical damage, while offering up exceptional nutrients, antioxidants provide a powerhouse for health benefits and help increase immune function.

WedMD suggests reaching for foods with antioxidants rather than reaching for a supplement, since “foods contain many different nutrients that work together to promote health.”

Reaching for those fresh veggies, fruit, and other healthy whole foods is the easiest path to better health.

I’ll drink (tomato juice) to that!


Antioxidants and Cancer Prevention - National Cancer Institute. (n.d.). Comprehensive Cancer Information - National Cancer Institute. Retrieved July 28, 2012, from

Antioxidants: MedlinePlus. (n.d.). National Library of Medicine - National Institutes of Health. Retrieved July 28, 2012, from

Foods, Antioxidants, Vitamins, & Supplements for Immune System Health. (n.d.). WebMD - Better information. Better health.. Retrieved July 28, 2012, from

Topical vs. Oral Antioxidants for Sun Protection – Which Is Better?. (n.d.). Inhuman Experiment | Experimenting to Live Longer and Healthier. Retrieved July 28, 2012, from

Reviewed July 31, 2012
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

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EmpowHER Guest

antioxidants are produced by the body and some by plants, and so they can be derived from the diet. Their job is to combat free radicals – highly reactive molecules formed as a natural by-product of cellular activity. Free radicals are also created by exposure to cigarette smoke, strong sunlight, and breathing in pollution.
These aggressive chemicals present a constant threat to cells and DNA. We know they can lead to cell damage, cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular problems. Free radicals have also been implicated in everything from strokes to Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

Antioxidants stop the chain reactions triggered by free radicals that can damage and destroy cells. So it may seem entirely reasonable that it would be a good thing to eat and drink more antioxidants to boost the supply – or even rub them into your skin

August 14, 2012 - 5:15pm
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