Can Antioxidants Really Help Weight Loss?

Antioxidants are powerful supplements which have known health benefits including fighting diseases, preventing cancer, treating stroke, reducing arthritis, and much more. In the past few years, antioxidants have also been hyped up as a natural weight loss supplement.  The fact of the matter is that antioxidants will not directly help you lose weight – but that doesn’t mean antioxidants aren’t important supplements for weight loss.

What are Antioxidants?

Antioxidants are essentially any molecule which prevents oxidation of molecules in your body.  Oxidation is the chemical change which occurs when a molecule reacts to oxygen. Even though oxidation is necessary for some functions in our bodies, it can be harmful.  The oxidized molecules may turn into free radicals which can damage cells.    Free radicals can lead to DNA mutations which cause cancer.  Free radicals have been implicated in contributing to signs of aging, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, arthritis, and heart disease, amongst many other health problems.

There is an inherent contradiction in the human body regarding oxygen.  While our bodies need oxygen in order to survive, the oxygen molecule can easily change and lead to cellular damage.  To counteract the potential damages of oxidization, our bodies naturally produce antioxidants.  However, much of our antioxidants also come from external sources, like fruits and vegetables.  Antioxidant supplements can also be used to fight harm from oxygen.  There are four main antioxidant compounds found in supplements and foods: vitamin C, vitamin E, polyphenols, and carotenoids.

Benefits of Antioxidant Supplements for Weight Loss

Antioxidant supplements will not directly help weight loss.  They do not cause an increase in metabolic rate, break down fat, nor block appetite.  However, antioxidants do have a very important role in aiding healthy weight loss: they prevent damage to the body which can occur as fat is broken down.

The human body is regularly exposed to toxins, such as pollution, food additives, cleaning products, cigarettes, and medicines.  Even the water we drink is likely to have toxins like bleach, ammonia, and chlorine.  When toxins enter the body, some of them are expelled but others remain in the body, primarily in fat cells. When you lose weight, your stored fat gets broken down and used as energy.  As this occurs, the toxins in the fat cells are released into your body.  Your body will attempt to fight damage from the toxins with its natural antioxidants.  However, if you are losing a lot of fat rapidly, your body can be overwhelmed by the released toxins.  They can be oxidized and turn into harmful free radicals.  You may experience symptoms like fatigue, inflammation, or even become sick.  By taking an antioxidant supplement while losing weight, you can prevent damage from all those toxins getting released from fat cells.

Antioxidant supplements are also important for any weight loss plan which includes exercise.  When you exercise, you are increasing the amount of oxygen that you take into your body by about 10 times.  The increase in oxygen can lead to oxidization and formation of free radicals.  Part of the reason that you feel so tired and sore after exercising is because of the damage from these free radicals.  By supplementing your body with antioxidants for weight loss, you will have more energy after exercising and recovery faster.

What about the Other Claims?

Experts do not discredit the benefits of antioxidants for keeping you healthy while losing weight.  If you are losing a lot of weight rapidly, then an antioxidant supplement can be very effective in keeping your energy levels up and preventing illness.  However, many of the antioxidant supplements make claims going well beyond this.

According to many claims, antioxidants help weight loss in this way: by taking the supplements, your body doesn’t have to work as hard to make its own antioxidants and it will be able to function more efficiently.  Instead of spending energy on making antioxidants, your body will put the energy into a faster metabolism.

As logical as these claims may seem, the function of antioxidants in the body is not so straight-forward.  By taking antioxidant supplements, you can feel more energized but it doesn’t necessarily mean that your metabolism will go faster.  Further, there are many different types of antioxidants and they each have different effects on the body.  It is also difficult to differentiate the benefits of antioxidants from the benefits of other compounds in antioxidant rich foods.  For example, green tea has been hyped up as a very effective weight-loss supplement because it is high in polyphenol antioxidants.  But green tea also contains caffeine, which is also effective for producing weight loss benefits.

Are Antioxidants Worth it For Weight Loss?

As far as antioxidant supplements go for weight loss, they can be very powerful tools for fighting off the potential damage that comes with rapid fat loss.  Since there are many other benefits to antioxidants related to obesity – such as reducing levels of LDL cholesterol and fighting heart disease – it is well worth it to include more antioxidants in your diet.  Instead of investing in pricy antioxidant supplements like acai berry extracts, you may be better off just eating more antioxidant-rich foods.  Some of the best sources of antioxidants include berries, artichokes, red beans, apples, and plums.

While the antioxidants in these foods may not directly help you lose weight, opting for antioxidant-rich foods can help you lose weight in the long run.  These foods are generally high in fiber and nutrients which support healthy weight loss. Further, when you are eating antioxidant-rich foods, you are not eating the junk foods (like processed foods containing additives) which contribute to obesity.


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