Let’s Ask Bertil Wosk: Can You Have Too Many Antioxidants?
A while ago, we received a tricky question about antioxidants. And, what do we do when we get tricky questions? Well, we send them to nutritional therapist Bertil Wosk.
– Hi Bertil!
We received a question from a reader about antioxidants and smoothies that we were unable to answer. In an episode of Trust Me I’m a Doctor (BBC), a volunteer was asked to drink an antioxidant-rich smoothie. The doctors took blood samples right before, and then continued to analyze the blood for 24 hours. After an initial rise in the antioxidant status, the concentrations fell below the levels seen before the smoothie. And after 24 hours, they were back to normal. Apparently, the body has a mechanism to deal with the sudden rise in antioxidants, and “unnecessary” antioxidants in the blood are quickly removed. We drink lots of antioxidant-rich smoothies and can’t help but wonder: Can you have too many antioxidants?
Good question! Antioxidants inhibit oxidation, a chemical reaction that can produce free radicals. And when antioxidants are unavailable, the free radicals can damage the cells. For proper physiological function, the body needs access to both oxidants and antioxidants. There has to be a balance. It’s the same with almost everything in the body – think about the balance between omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, for example. Unfortunately, most people have too little of both antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids.
The antioxidants from the smoothie is quickly taken into the blood, but then the body works to return its antioxidant levels to the ideal. It’s the same with sugar – it causes a spike and then a sudden dip. After a while the level of both antioxidants and sugar in the blood will be back to normal.
You might think that getting more antioxidants is better. But antioxidants aren’t the only thing that keeps us healthy. And as I said, it’s a matter of balance. More is not always better. But if you drink a green smoothie, you will not only get the antioxidants. Provided that it contains good things, you get, in addition to antioxidants, a lot of vitamins, minerals, fibers, water and many other things that are also useful. A diet that is naturally rich in a mix of antioxidants is something to aim for. For example, try to mix at least three colors each time you eat vegetables. Different colors contain different antioxidants, which additionally have the great ability to strengthen each other if eaten together.