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Nine benefits of antioxidants: From disease prevention to healthy aging

We explore the well-known — and the lesser-known — benefits of antioxidants

What are the benefits of antioxidants? From blueberries to pumpkin, and beyond, there are many antioxidant-rich foods. Although the word antioxidant may be a bit of a mystery, what antioxidants do in the body is straightforward. An antioxidant is a compound that inhibits oxidation. Oxidation is a chemical reaction that can produce chain reactions and free radicals, and therefore has the potential of doing damage to the body’s cells.

You may already be familiar with some of the most important antioxidants like vitamin C and vitamin E, selenium, and carotenoids like beta-carotene. Most of the antioxidant rich foods in which you find them – especially in high quantities – are fruits, vegetables and other naturally occurring plant foods. Berries, carrots, coffee, red grapes, green tea, turmeric, onions, peppers, avocados, radishes, kale and lemon are all great foods to consume in order to get your daily dose.

But what does your daily dose do? Even the knowledge that antioxidants are good for you and how they function in the body to benefit you isn’t enough to say precisely what sensations and improvements they are responsible for. So here are nine benefits of getting your daily serving of antioxidants.

1. THEY REDUCE OXIDATIVE STRESS

Oxidative stress is a form of physiological stress caused by an imbalance between the production and accumulation of oxygen-reactive species in the cells and tissue. This can result in a gap in a system’s ability to detoxify reactive products. While this may seem abstract, research shows that oxidative stress can be responsible for the onset of diseases like cancer, diabetes, metabolic disorders, atherosclerosis and cardiovascular diseases. By consuming antioxidants you can prevent that state of oxidative stress, which can set you up for success in many areas of your health.

2. THEY SUPPORT DISEASE PREVENTION

Most of the disease-prevention capabilities associated with antioxidants are also related to oxidative stress. A report in Research in Pharmaceutical Sciences shows that by reducing oxidative stress, antioxidants can support normal cellular function and offer additional protection against diseases. Antioxidants have been linked to lower rates of cancer, tumors, diabetes, atherosclerosis, cardiovascular diseases and metabolic disorders in many cases. Although research is ongoing, the outlook on their impact is positive.

3. THEY SUPPORT EYE HEALTH

Introducing more antioxidant rich foods into your diet can have a particularly effective impact on your risk for certain major eye concerns, specifically, age-related macular degeneration and cataracts. In fact, a 2013 study published in Clinical Interventions in Aging(opens in new tab) found that it may also slow the progression of age-related macular degeneration. Beta-carotene and vitamin E are also quite well known for these properties.

antioxidents

4. THEY AID IN BRAIN FUNCTION

Did you know that due to the amount of oxygen the brain uses in daily functioning through naturally high metabolic activity, it is more susceptible than most of the body’s other systems to free radical attack? One of the major ways you can protect your brain against this attack is by consuming antioxidants. Specifically, antioxidants have the potential to delay various forms of cognitive decline, like memory loss. This is all related to oxidative stress, too, which can contribute to Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of memory loss and decline in cognitive function.

5. THEY CAN CONTRIBUTE TO MENTAL HEALTH IMPROVEMENTS

Brain health and mental health are different from one another, but antioxidants can lend both a helping hand. Research in Current Neuropharmacology shows that oxidative stress is often related to anxiety and depression. Although eating a healthy, balanced diet that includes a rich array of antioxidants isn’t a replacement for proper mental health medication or care, it is among the lifestyle changes that can be of help to plenty of individuals.

6. THEY CAN REDUCE INFLAMMATION

Inflammation often gets a bad rap, but it’s not always negative or concerning. In fact, inflammation serves an important purpose in the body, within reason. Inflammation is the process of your white blood cells protecting you against infections from outside the body, such as bacteria. However, that doesn’t mean it’s always comfortable, or necessary.

Inflammation can manifest in a variety of symptoms, including headaches, joint and muscle pain. The way that antioxidants prevent inflammation is relatively simple; as they protect the cells from damage, they can prevent those unwanted inflammatory responses from occurring at all.

7. THEY SUPPORT HEALTHY AGING PROCESSES

Amid claims that a diet rich in antioxidants can slow, prevent or even reverse the aging process, it’s time to set the record straight. There’s nothing that can scientifically disrupt the aging process. However, there is evidence to suggest that antioxidants can support a healthy aging process. From the mental elements of improving memory and preventing Alzheimer’s, to general disease prevention (and even playing a vital role in the bone remodeling process), antioxidants can work to keep the body protected and agile throughout the aging process.

8. THEY CAN KEEP THE SKIN HEALTHY

Antioxidants can contribute to healthy aging on the inside, and they can also do the same on the outside. By helping to fight free radical damage, antioxidants can offer extra protection for the skin. Not only can the prevention of inflammation help to ward off things like redness, puffiness, and premature aging, but antioxidants can also protect against UV sun damage (which causes premature aging and wrinkles).

One of the most common and effective antioxidants for skin care is vitamin C. Vitamin C can help reverse and prevent discoloration, as well as aid in collagen production. And one of the best ways to use vitamin C for the skin is to apply it topically. This is why so many skin and face products contain vitamin C. In skin care products, you’ll often see it listed as L-ascorbic acid and/or ester-C.

9. THEY PARTICIPATE IN A HEALTHY GUT MICROBIOME

Your gut health has the potential to impact your body from head to toe. Everything from your mental health to your skin can be affected by the state of your gut microbiome and it really is a microbiome — complete with healthy bacteria that keeps everything in balance.

Research in the journal Antioxidants shows that antioxidants can reduce intestinal oxidative stress levels by modulating the composition of beneficial microbial species within the gut. This can help to provide a strong and balanced foundation for your gut health. Antioxidants are just one part of a healthy, balanced diet and they can give you a boost from the inside out – as if you needed another reason to eat your fruits and veggies!

Jamie Kahn        August 26, 2022

source: www.livescience.com


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We’re All Glued To Our Screens Right Now. Here’s How You Can Protect Your Eyes

With much of the globe now under coronavirus-related restrictions, we have never been so tethered to our screens – for work, to connect with friends, to unwind or to distract ourselves.

One new estimate suggested that adults are spending more than 13 hours a day using screens, a spike up from 10 hours a day a year ago.

With children cut off from physically attending school, they are more reliant on laptops and tablets for online lessons and entertainment.

And with our new routines likely to have a lot more screen time for the foreseeable future, experts say it’s important to learn how to protect our eyes from suffering as a result.

While there is no evidence of long-term eye damage from extended use of smartphones, computer screens or other devices, prolonged use can sometimes lead to blurred vision, eye fatigue, dry or irritated eyes and headaches, according to Moorfield Eye Hospital in London.

Dr. Raj Maturi, the clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology and a retina specialist, called these symptoms “digital vision syndrome.”

He, along with the doctors at the Moorfield Eye Hospital, recommended a 20-20-20 approach — for every 20 minutes spent at a screen you must take a break and look 20 feet in front of you for 20 seconds.

“When you are looking at a close target, your eyes are just training that one muscle at all time, and looking into the distance can relieve it,” he said.

Don’t forget to blink

While it’s close work, rather than screen use per se, that strains our eyes. Dr Maturi said that looking at bright devices can make us blink less, which leaves our eyes feeling dry.

“When things are bright, we blink less. It’s behavioral. So we can train ourselves to blink more often and blink fully,” he said.

If you’re already suffering from dry eyes, he recommended the use of artificial tears. Moorfields Eye Hospital also suggested using a humidifier, as well as making sure your work station is set up correctly.

The top of your computer screen should be in line with your eyes and about 18 to 30 inches from where you’re sitting and tilted back slightly, the hospital said in a blog post in April.

Dr. Rachel Bishop, a spokesperson for the National Eye Institute, agreed that where your screen is positioned is important.

“If you are looking down, then your eyelid is shut a bit and you’re not having as much evaporation – which can help prevent dry eyes. If you’re looking up high, your eye dries much quicker,” she said.

Other steps you can take include dimming the surrounding lights so that the screen is brighter in comparison and cleaning your computer screen regularly to avoid dust buildup, which can obscure the screen and cause eye irritation.

If you or your children continue to have vision problems after making these fixes, experts recommended seeking advice from an ophthalmologist or optician as it could be a sign of an uncorrected eye problem like long-sightedness or astigmatism.

If you’re older than your late 30s and unable to see an eye care professional because of lockdown restrictions, there would be no harm in buying a cheap pair of drugstore reading glasses and seeing if they help, said Bishop.

“The focusing muscle in your eye changes as you age. You can focus up close when you’re 20 for hours at a time and have no problems. But that ability declines as you age,” said Dr Bishop.

“For people who aren’t eager to have a medical appointment, the first thing is to try on some low-strength, over-the-counter reading glasses. Hold up something to read and pick the lowest number you can comfortably read at the distance you like to work,” she said.

Blue light

Another potential concern is the “blue light” that digital devices emit, but Dr. Maturi said this affects our body clock, rather than our vision. But it’s something worth paying attention to – especially for kids who can get overstimulated easily.

“When we go outside we look at a blue sky, that’s blue light,” he said. “The issue with blue light is at night. It can delay your ability to sleep quickly,” he said.

He suggested that people turn their devices to night mode or use e-readers with screens that more closely resemble a physical book. The key was to look at how many nits a display had – a measurement of luminance or brightness, he added.

To protect kids’ eyes, parents should encourage them to spend as much time outside as possible – within restrictions that are in place where you live to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

The past two decades have seen a massive increase in myopia or short-sightedness among children – and while scientists can’t agree on exactly what has caused this rise and whether there’s any link to screen use, they do know that spending time outdoors, especially in early childhood, can slow its progression.

“We should know more in a few years when research comes up with more answers, but for parents they have a dilemma because the school is now brought into the screen and kids social engagement are now brought into the screen and kids are playing their games on a screen,” said Bishop.

 

By Katie Hunt, CNN      Fri May 1, 2020
 
source: www.cnn.com
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Is all this screen time damaging my eyes?
(Yes. But here’s what to do)

Between Zoom meetings, ordering groceries online, Instagram videos, Face Time, checking the Canadian coronavirus map, endless chats with friends over Messenger, digital symptom trackers, and, of course, bingeing Tiger King, screen time is at an all-time high.

Digital media has emerged as a hero in the covid-19 pandemic, since it’s making remote work possible and social media platforms now provide a lifeline to those of us who feel isolated. But if you do both, as I do, that’s a lot of screen time, even before I start streaming The Plot Against America (must-watch, by the way). Since I’m already nearsighted, I wondered if this lockdown was going to do permanent damage.

I asked Dr. Ritesh Patel, Optometrist at Toronto’s See and Be Seen Eyecare , for a little advice, starting with some straight talk about how much screen time is too much. Apparently, anything over two or three hours is considered too much. Whoops.

“Whether that’s realistic or not is a different story,” says Patel. “So for people spending more time in front of screens, we try to recommend something called 20-20-20, which means that every 20 minutes you should give your eyes a 20-second break by looking 20 feet away, which allows you to refocus your eyes.”

And, thanks to the hand-washing regimen we’ve all recently learned, we should know how long 20 seconds really is—two Happy Birthday songs; the break from “Kiss Off” by the Violent Femmes, or the chorus to Dolly Parton’s “Jolene.” Your choice.

Taking a 20-second breather to look out the window may not seem like the most important part of our new regimen that sees us take measures to avoid the novel coronavirus, avoid transmitting it to others, quell the rising tides of anxiety and find some way to stay physically active in our small spaces, but protecting our vision is an important piece too. It’s more than just the worry that we’ll all be getting new prescriptions, since too much blue UV light, which is emitted from our screens, can cause other problems.

“The devices can cause strain on your eyes, fatigue and, potentially, headaches but they also impact other things such as sleeping patterns,” Patel explains. “So, if you’re using your phone before you go to sleep, your brain is tricked into thinking it’s daytime instead of night time so your sleeping patterns are, of course, impacted as well which has an effect on cholesterol, diabetes and high blood pressure. It’s a bigger picture and a systemic issue as well.”

Patel advises cutting off the screens two hours before bed. I asked him if that included Netflix and, sadly, it does. Although he did say that, if the TV was far away, it was at least less damaging than staring right into tablets and laptops close-up.

And that principle can also guide us to design vision-friendly home office set-ups. Casting your work to a TV a few feet away is an improvement over working on a desktop or laptop, which, aside from producing eye strain, can also interfere with our normal blinking patterns.

“We don’t realize this but, as soon as we get in front of a screen and get into our zone, we blink a lot less,” Patel says. “Instead of blinking every two to three seconds, you start blinking every four to five seconds and that’s a significant decrease.”

Reduced blinking can make our eyes feel dry, itchy, sensitive to light, red and even lead to more bacteria getting stuck in the eyes, which could lead to infections. He recommends “blinking exercises,” which involve closing your eyes for five seconds and then again for 10 seconds at regular intervals throughout the day.

“I kind of equate it to yoga, how you become conscious about your breathing and realize you take a lot of shallow breaths in your everyday life,” he says. “Breathing and blinking kind of go hand-in-hand, because you don’t think about it, they just happened literally 10,000 times per day, but it feels good to take a deep breath or close your eyes for a break and give your eyes the moisture levels they need.”

Patel recommends looking into technological solutions as well. Many phones and tablets have something in their settings called “Night Shift,” which reduces the brightness of the light and Patel advises leaving that on all the time—not just at night. There’s also software available to filter out the blue light, such as f.lux. And there are plenty of apps to nudge you to do the 20-20-20 thing and take frequent breaks, since some of us will inevitably forget to look away from the screen if we get really engrossed in our work. And “Screen Time,” itself, which tells you how much time you’ve spent on any given device is helpful, too.

Says Patel: “It definitely boils down to awareness, right? If you’re not even aware of the fact that this is an excessive amount of time spent on the computer, then it’s not even going to cross your mind. But if you have a timer that tells you it’s time to take a break now, you might do it.”

By Christine Sismondo    Special to the Star         Mon., April 13, 2020
Christine Sismondo is a Toronto-based writer and contributor to the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @sismondo