Antioxidant Supplements, A Good First Choice

Antioxidant Supplements, A Good First Choice

Although this column was originally published in Parrots magazine, October 2005, issue #93 in her monthly column ‘The Holistic Parrot’, the information is contains applies to animals of all types.

Why do antioxidants top the list as being the single most important supplement?

Numerous diseases, degenerative conditions and even the aging process itself, are attributed to free-radical damage. A free radical is a highly reactive molecule that can bind to and destroy other molecules. Also known as oxidative damage, free radical damage can irreversibly impair body cells and physiological processes.

Although the body’s natural biochemical processes actually produce most of the oxidative free radicals, when free radical levels elevate above what the body can control they can begin altering the way the cells code genetic material. These changes in the basic structure of proteins occur because of errors in protein synthesis. The body’s immune system may mistake these altered proteins as foreign substances and try to destroy them. Autoimmune diseases occur when the body’s immune system attacks the body’s own cells. The formation of mutated proteins can eventually damage the immune system and lead to leukemia, other types of cancer, and many other diseases.

Antioxidants, also called free radical scavengers, are the only way the body can successfully manage free radicals. Antioxidants target free radicals at the molecular level. They do this by combining with the free radicals preventing them from binding to and destroying the molecules that make up the cells that compose vital systems.

Although many of the fresh fruits, vegetables and sprouts we may already feed our parrots naturally contain antioxidants, it is difficult to consume enough from food sources to combat the free radicals continually being produced in the body from exposure to our polluted environment.

Exposure to toxins from our surroundings or lifestyle increase the free radical load in the body. Sources include poor indoor air quality, second hand smoke, pesticides, artificial colorings and flavorings, chemical preservatives, radiation, water treatment processes and other chemicals in our food, water or air. What ever your parrot is exposed to his body must process. Limiting exposure to these elements reduces the body’s free radical load.

It is well documented that emotional stress adversely effects the entire body. When stressed the body uses up antioxidants and essential vitamins, minerals and enzymes at a faster rate. When these vital metabolic nutrients are depleted the body’s ability to metabolize harmful free radicals stops and oxidative damage occurs. This is where antioxidant supplements can help close the gap.

Antioxidants come in a variety of forms – each providing unique chemical components when binding to free radicals. Extensive research data indicates that a combination of antioxidants will provide greater antioxidant protection than any single nutritional antioxidant alone.

Important antioxidants include vitamins A, C and E, beta-carotene, lutein, alpha lipoic acid – a remarkable oxidative-reductive agent and superoxide dismutase (SOD) – the only antioxidant whose specifically targets a toxic molecule known as superoxide. Another important category of antioxidants include proanthocyanidins.

Proanthocyanidins belong to a group of plant pigments called flavonoids. Over 4,000 flavonoid compounds have been classified. Research has shown that flavonoids may be useful in the treatment and prevention of many health conditions. Many of the medicinal actions of foods, juices, herbs and bee pollen are directly related to their flavonoid content. Proanthocyanidins are one of the most beneficial groups of plant flavonoids that have powerful antioxidant effects.

Another important biochemical property of proanthocyanidins is their ability to inhibit specific enzymes which are the precursors of arthritic inflammation, degenerative joint disease, allergic reactions and allergies. Proanthocyanidins are found in Grape Seed Extract or Pycnogenol. Studies indicate that both sources are effective.

Antioxidant supplements will be available in either a tablet, capsule or powder form. One new product I have been testing is a liquid. With liquid supplements an eye dropper (pipette) can be used to add a few drops to a parrot’s daily fresh food dish.

At this writing, my choice of a well formulated combination antioxidant product is ‘Oxygenics’ produced by Metagenics. This product comes in tablet form. The ideal way to give supplements to parrots is in a powder form.

With tablets, use a medium sized mortar and pestle, available from an apothecary or herb store. Grind a few tablets into a smooth powder. If you decide on an antioxidant that comes in a capsule form, just open the capsules.

Then, using a funnel pour your product into a small salt shaker. This makes it very easy to dust a small amount over each feeding dish containing fresh food. If you begin with just a few shakes many parrots may not even notice the change. Or you can begin by sprinkling some over a known favorite food. If you choose a wet food, fresh fruit, sprouts or steamed vegetables, the supplement powder will stick to the food enabling your bird to easily ingest some. Do not add antioxidant supplements to the water, the exposure to light destroys their healthful properties.

Do you have questions on holistic and natural health care for birds or the other animals under your care? If so contact Leslie at

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