Moderation in All Things

Moderation in all things is an old idea. There are 2,000 year old references to it and it has been recycled and reused and rephrased millions and millions of time since then. Just about everyone knows what the saying means but sometimes we don’t practice the meaning.

Right now we don’t have much ‘to hang our hats on’ in the way of treatments for AMD. The one thing that seemed solid – but in actuality may not be all THAT solid – is antioxidants can help to control the development and progression of AMD. And if a little is good, a lot should be GREAT; right? Wrong.

To dredge up another old saying, there really is such a thing as too much of a good thing. It is possible to overdo the antioxidants.

Wikipedia explains having too many bioavailable antioxidant compounds can interfere with the immune system. It’s an underlying cause of allergies, asthma and skin alterations. A reduction of free oxygen species can lead to allergic, hypersensitivity disorders. A common example of this type of disorder is eczema.

Many antioxidants are antinutrients. Antinutrients are compounds that interfere with the absorption of other nutrients needed for health.

There is also a question of how effective our bodies will ‘allow’ antioxidants to be. Poljasak and Milisav in 2012 noted there appear to be homeostatic mechanisms in cells that govern the amount of allowable antioxidant activity. Most people are able to maintain their setpoint of oxidative stress so no matter how much additional antioxidant they consume further decreases in oxidative stress do not occur.

And this is probably a very good thing. Reactive oxygen species are involved in chemicals signaling to regulate a large number of cell functions. The elimination of free radicals would only serve to severely disrupt the functioning of the cell.

Although the biochemistry is beyond my ken right now (and perhaps also beyond my Barbie – ouch! Don’t hit me! It wasn’t that bad!), it appears that in some cases antioxidants are helpful rather than harmful to cancer. Vitamin E and beta carotene supplements increased the rates of lung cancer in smokers.

And while we are talking about things I don’t understand, Poljasak and Milisav shared iron and antioxidants react to one another in weird ways. They also noted the levels of cellular iron increase as we age. Something else too much antioxidants could mess with.

Erica Wickham writing for Livestrong.com shared it is best to get antioxidants from food and not from supplements. Recommendations from the U.S. government are to consume a varied diet with at least five servings of fruits and vegetables and six to 12 portions of grain. In a day an adult should eat about 2.5 cups of vegetables. A half a cup of cooked grain or a slice of whole grain bread is considered a serving.

Once again we are back to my ‘grandma-isms’: moderation in all things and there really is such a thing as too much of a good thing. We have enough going wrong with our eyes. Upsets in cellular chemistry not required. Be smart with antioxidants.

written July 23rd, 2017

Next: Studying the Study

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