Naked Science Forum

Life Sciences => Physiology & Medicine => Topic started by: Dan Pettingill on 13/11/2009 17:30:02

Title: Do antioxidants in berries really make a difference?
Post by: Dan Pettingill on 13/11/2009 17:30:02
Dan Pettingill asked the Naked Scientists:
I know everyone says that we need more anti oxidants to fight free radicals but I'm sceptical that eating a bunch of berries or whatever is really quantitatively making a difference. 

So my question is, does it really make that big of a difference or does regular exercise and eating clean do just fine?

What do you think?
Title: Do antioxidants in berries really make a difference?
Post by: glovesforfoxes on 13/11/2009 21:46:06
Antioxidants are just one beneficial effect of eating fresh fruit. To explain why antioxidants actually make a difference..

Free radicals are simply molecules or atoms with a single unbonded electron in it's valence electron shell. This makes them highly, highly reactive. They will react with nearly anything, and the biggest problem of the reactivity is that they can react with DNA. Usually this will be harmless because DNA has mechanisms for protecting itself from this sort of damage, but in the case of cancer for example, if the mechanism for apoptosis (cell suicide) is damaged, this will contribute to a cell becoming cancerous.  Antioxidants in fresh fruit such as vitamin C can help reduce the damage this can cause. I don't know the exact mechanism, but I guess that they are particularly attractive to the free radicals, so instead of damaging DNA, it harmlessly binds to the antioxidant and is removed in waste or used elsewhere if possible.

So yes, berries, and other fruit and veg in general are quantitatively making a difference to your health. You don't necessarily have to eat superfoods or take a dozen supplements, but about 5 pcs of fresh fruit/veg a day should help reduce risk of cancer. Recently, the food industry has capitalised on it's importance, but it is a fad, just like omega-3 etc and everything else the body needs. Fortifying foods is fine, but it should not be the sole factor in determining if a product is healthy. People often think that smoothies are healthy, which they are, but only in small amounts, say 200ml. The amount of natural sugar in more than this is too much and will cause insulin spikes which can lead to diabetes eventually in later life.