Antioxidant Power for Super Pets

| January/February 2007

  • A variety of antioxidant-rich herbs, greens and fruits will keep your pet’s diet interesting and healthy.
  • A mix of antioxidants is important because many of them work synergistically.

Antioxidants are all the rage these days, seemingly good for whatever ails you or your pet. The good news is that much of the hype actually is true, and the better news is that herbs are excellent sources of antioxidants. Even better, herbs not only provide a wide variety of antioxidants (as we’ll see, an important part of how they should be used), but they also are among the safest sources known.

How do Antioxidants Work?

During the process of healthy metabolism, carbohydrates and sugars are “burned” in the presence of oxygen to provide the animal with energy. Most of the raw materials involved in metabolism are converted to energy.

In all energy reactions in the body, however, there are some molecular fragments that aren’t totally used up, and some of these are chemically active fragments that have an electrical charge due to an excess or deficient number of electrons. These charged molecules are called free radicals.

Because they have one or more unpaired electrons, free radicals are highly unstable. They scavenge the animal’s body to grab or donate electrons, thereby damaging cells, proteins and DNA itself. This same oxidative process also causes oils to become rancid, peeled fruits to brown and iron to rust.

Normal aerobic respiration and food metabolism create a constant source of free radicals, but a host of other activities produce excessive free radicals as well, among them excessive exercise; inflammatory diseases, such as arthritis; and the abnormal cell growth that’s associated with most types of cancer. Free radicals also can come from outside factors including pollution, sunlight, tobacco smoke and X-rays.

Most animals are capable of dealing with a normal amount of free radicals, but excessive free radicals can produce disease. In addition, animals that are stressed, or aging animals with organ systems and immune functions that are beginning to wane, may need some help to eliminate free radicals.

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