Antioxidants and Detoxification

We all know that the main mechanism of antioxidants is to protect our cells from free radical damage that may be caused by several factors including our diet and lifestyle. Studies have shown however that there is more than meets the eye, as antioxidants also have the ability to aid the body’s detoxification process.


During detoxification [You may want to refer to our previous entry Step 3 to Wellness – Cleanse & Detox for greater detail], antioxidants cause gene expression also termed as the ‘Antioxidant Response Element (ARE)’. Like a chain process, metabolism of antioxidants produces a compound that triggers the expression of detoxifying/ defensive genes that protect the body from xenobiotics (harmful toxins) produced during detoxification1. Therefore, we need to ensure we boost our antioxidant levels to ensure our body is not damaged by the toxic chemicals being produced.



glutathione sources

Glutathione is a protein with multiple functions such as antioxidant properties, balancing intracellular environment and detoxification of xenobiotics2. Glutathione can not only scavenge for free radicals to protect our cells, but are also pre-cursors during detoxification of hydrogen peroxide, toxic by-products from fatty acid oxidation and free electrons3. The body naturally produces this important compo und but we can boost our levels and support our body by consuming foods high in glutathione. Most glutathione sources can be found in meat, seafood as well as sulphur-containing foods like garlic, onion and cruciferous vegetables like cabbage and broccoli.





Another natural antioxidant is curcumin. Curcumin is a safe and nutritious component in food that is not only a highly effective antioxidant, but has shown to contain protective roles against mercury in the body. According to recent animal studies, rats experimentally exposed to mercury and then pre and post-treated with curcumin reflected protective effect on mercury-induced stress as well as decreased mercury concentration in tissues. Rats without curcumin treatment had the opposite effects with increased mercury exposure4. This study indicates curcumins’ potential as both an antioxidant and protective effects against mercury exposure.





  1. Saravanakumar D, et al., 2001, ‘Antioxidant regulation of genes encoding enzymes that detoxify xenobiotics and carcinogens’, Current topics in Cellular Regulation, 36: pp. 201- 216
  2. Main PA, et al., 2012, ‘The potential role of the antioxidant and detoxification properties of glutathione in autism spectrum disorders: a systematic review and meta-analysis’, Nutr Metab (Lond)., 9: pp.9-35
  3. Masella R, et al., 2005, ‘Novel mechanism of natural antioxidant compounds in biological systems: involvement of glutathione and glutathione-related enzymes’, The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, 16:10, pp. 577-586
  4. Agarwal R, Goel SK and Behari JR, 2010, ‘ Detoxification and antioxidant effects of curcumin in rats experimentally exposed to mercury’, J Appl. Toxicol, 30:5, pp. 457-468


Comments are closed.