Excess free radicals can harm healthy cells and tissues, and damage DNA. They can cause degenerative disease, inflammation, immune system damage and cancer. Antioxidants, however, can gobble up toxic free radicals before they do damage. It's best for your cat to get antioxidants in fresh foods, like fruits and vegetables.
Antioxidants: The Lowdown
Antioxidants help to keep your cat in fighting shape. However, the "fight" isn't with other cats, but in the immune system itself. Research has shown that cats given antioxidant supplements—such as vitamins A, C and E, selenium and alpha lipoic acid—are more capable of fighting off disease and infection. These supplements may reduce the cellular damage done by free radicals, helping to return a sick cat to a state of good health.
When Your Cat May Need Antioxidants
Antioxidants can be beneficial in helping to treat a wide variety of feline health issues. Allergies and skin problems are often improved when a kitty is given supplements. In addition, immune disorders, like cancer and feline leukemia virus (FeLV), as well as respiratory or cardiovascular diseases, can be improved by antioxidant supplementation. Finally, eye disorders such as failing vision or cataracts sometimes respond to antioxidants, as do general problems associated with aging.
Fruits and Veggies
According to Dr. Karen Becker, an integrative wellness veterinarian, vitamin A and carotinoids are found in bright-colored fruits and veggies such as apricots, broccoli, cantaloupe, carrots, peaches, squash, sweet potatoes and tomatoes. Vitamin C is found in citrus fruits, strawberries, green peppers, broccoli and green leafy vegetables. Vitamin E is found in nuts, seeds and whole grains. Selenium is found in proteins, such as fish, chicken, beef and eggs.
Other Food Sources
Other antioxidants can be found in phytochemicals, which are chemical compounds founds in plants. Lycopene (said to inhibit cancer) is a bright red carotene and carotenoid pigment found in watermelon and red bell peppers, while lutein (good for eye health) is in dark green vegetables like spinach, broccoli and kale. Lignan is found in flaxseed and other grains—wheat, oats and barley—and is thought to "scavenge" free radicals that may cause disease.
Debra Levy has been writing for more than 30 years. She has had fiction and nonfiction published in various literary journals. Levy holds an M.A. in English from Indiana University and an M.F.A. in creative writing/fiction from the Bennington Writing Seminars.