Smoking and AntioxidantsPublished:September 5th, 2011
Modern scientists believe that cigarette smoking is one of the major risk factors for the development of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, pulmonary problems, and cancer. In most cases, people who use cigarettes also have other risky lifestyle habits, such as lack of physical activity and alcohol abuse, which put them in a much greater risk for health complications.
Antioxidants are substances, which either are produced within the body or are taken in from the food we eat. Antioxidants prevent disease-producing damage to the cell brought about by the free radicals produced from normal body processes and exposure to some exogenous chemicals.
Oxidation is one of those body processes that produce free radicals, the highly unstable oxygen molecules, within the body. Free radicals are the culprits to the development of oxidative stress, the most common root cause of many health problems such as Alzheimer’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, Parkinson’s disease, cancer and heart problems, according to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
The body has the ability to produce its own supply of antioxidants. However, antioxidants can also be derived from the food we eat. Antioxidant-loaded foods include vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and cereals.
Cigarette smoke contains loads and loads of free radicals that trigger the depletion of antioxidant levels within the blood. Furthermore, the free radicals within the cigarette smoke can also increase lipid peroxidation, the incomplete metabolism of lipids within the body that results in the production of harmful unstable markers of oxidative stress and reactive oxygen by-products, and protein modification resulting in the production of other toxic products. These toxic products are thought to cause the activation of the body’s immune responses ultimately leading to the cigarette-smoking related damage to the tissues. As more and more tissues are functionally damaged by the free radicals released by smoking, chronic disease development sets in.
Do smokers need additional sources of antioxidants from food supplements?
A study published in the June 2009 issue of the Singapore Medical Journal reveals that smokers tend to have a higher oxidative stress level and a lower defense system compared to their non-smoking counterparts. Furthermore, the researchers of this study also noted that smokers tend to eat lesser servings of fruits and vegetable per day, which makes them more at risk for the development of chronic health problems.
Because of this scenario, it is highly recommended for smokers to: (1) quit smoking to elevate their levels of antioxidants and decrease the intensity of their oxidative stress, (2) increase their vegetable and fruit intake, and (3) take additional antioxidant supplements to compensate their critically low levels of antioxidant defense activity within their body.
- The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition; Antioxidant intake and smoking status: data from the Continuing Survey of Food Intakes by Individuals 1994-1996; Ma, J. et al.; 2000
- National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine: Antioxidant Supplements for Health: An Introduction
- Singapore Medical Journal; Antioxidant status and smoking habits: relationship with diet; Jain, A. et al.; June 2009