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CHAPTER ONE 1.0                                

INTRODUCTION Background of the study

Antioxidants are disease fighting compounds that nature puts in foods to help body cells and tissues stay healthy (Warmer, 2002). Turner (2002) documented that antioxidants are phyto chemicals produced by plants to fight against viruses, fungi and bacteria. They are essentially the chemical substances that mop up harmful free radicals (bioxidants) from body cells and tissues (Blomhoff,  2002). They are compounds that protect other body compounds from harmful effects of oxygen by themselves reacting with oxygen (Packer & Cadenas, 1995). Ene-Obong (2001) asserted that antioxidants are substances that counteract the actions of free radicals in the body and assist to prevent extreme broad spectrum of diseases.

The collection of solar energy and its conversion into chemical energy in plants would not have been possible without a mechanism that effectively eliminates hazardous excess energy and prevents oxidative damage of the plant cells. Plants are high in numerous antioxidant compounds such as polyphenols, carotenoids, tocopherols,  tocotrienols, glutathione, ascorbic acid, as well as enzymes with antioxidant activity. Animal cells have a much more limited de-novo antioxidant production (Blomhoff, 2005). Oxidative damage can accumulate in animal cells when the critical balance between generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) or reactive nitrogen species (RNS) and antioxidant defense is unfavourable and compelling evidence demonstrates that such oxidative damage is involved in the pathogenesis of cardiovascular diseases (Talalay, 2000). Free radicals damage healthy cells and are especially likely to attack the fats that provide structure to cell membrane surrounding the cells. The reactions are expected to provide progressive adverse damage that accumulates with age  throughout the body and such damages are manifested as disease at certain age as determined environmental factors (Harman, 1992). Free radicals are those harmful and unstable types of oxygen that damage cells and cause decay, disease, and cancers. Every single person is

 affected by free radicals through exposure to pollutants, toxins and stress This is even more pronounced for smokers, people with chronic disease including cancer, people recovering from surgery or illness, people with weak immune system and elderly (Nutrihealth, 2005). Antioxidants neutralize highly reactive, destructive compounds- called free radicals or bioxidants whose production is actually a normal part of life and part of the equation of simply breathing in oxygen (Kendall, 2000). Usually the body’s natural defense system neutralizes free radicals that develop, rendering them harmless. However, environmental assaults on the body such as UV-radiation, pollutions and alcohol, can overpower the body’s ability to neutralize free radicals. This allows them to cause damage to the structure and function of the body cells and there is good evidence that the damage contributes to ageing and leads to a host of illnesses, including cancer and heart diseases (Nutrihealth, 2005). Buttress, Celly, Dallal, Young and Evans (1994) in their initial studies, indicated that antioxidants reduce oxidative stress. However, human intervention studies do not support a beneficial effect of antioxidant supplements.  Turner (2002) disclosed that initial studies in animals and humans are supportive of beneficial effects of plant foods rich in total antioxidants and that antioxidants and other plant compounds improve the endogenous antioxidant’s defense through induction of antioxidants. The best protection for the animal cells as for plant cells may be obtained by a combination of antioxidants as antioxidants with different chemical properties are needed for proper protection of all components in a cell or an organism. Such interactions were proved invivo and invitro for alpha-tocopherol, alphatocotrienol, ascorbic acid, lipoic acid and thiols (Droge, 2002). Antioxidants- beta carotene, vitamins C and E and selenium as scavengers of harmful oxygen-derived free radicals, assist to prevent cell and tissue damages which could precipitate many diseases such as cancer, atherosclerosis, diabetes, respiratory diseases, liver damages, rheumatoid arthritis, cataract and acquired immune-deficiency syndrome (AIDS). Others are inflammatory bowel diseases, central nervous system disorders, Parkinson disease, motoneuron disease and conditions associated with premature deaths (Talalay, 2000). Antioxidants with different chemical properties may recharge each other in an oxidant net work and the total antioxidants of dietary plants may be a useful tool for testing antioxidant network hypothesis. Dietary plants rich in total antioxidant compounds include several fruits, nuts, seeds, vegetables, drinks, ginger, red beans, soybeans, onions, garlic, spinach, brussel sprouts, cabbage, kale, cauliflowers and other food spices (Turner, 2002). Antioxidant research continues to grow and emerge as new beneficial none nutritive foods are discovered and such obtained from food sources, including fruits, vegetable and whole grains are potentially active in disease  risk reduction and generally beneficial to human health (Warmer, 2002).                            


Adults within the ages 40-60 are susceptible to chronic diseases and plant foods, such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains contain many none nutritive dietary components that are beneficial to human health. Research supports that some of these foods as part of an overall healthy diet have the potential to delay the onset of many age related diseases. This observation has lead to continued research aimed at identifying specific bioactive components of foods, such as antioxidants, which may be responsible for improving and maintaining health (Turner, 2002). The most well known component of food with antioxidant activities are vitamins A, C, and E, beta carotene, the mineral selenium, and more recently, the compound Lycopene (Bliss, 2007). Research continues to grow regarding the knowledge of antioxidants as healthful components of food. Oxidation or the loss of an electron produces reactive substances known as free radicals which can cause oxidative stress or damage to cells. Antioxidants are capable of stabilizing free radical before they react and cause harm in much the same way as buffer stabilizes an acid to maintain a normal pH. Since oxidation is a normally occurring process within the body, a balance with antioxidants must exist to maintain health (Warmer, 2002). As the body has its defenses against oxidative stress, these defenses are thought to become less effective with ageing as oxidative stress becomes greater (Nutrihealth 2005). Free radicals lead to a number of degenerative diseases associated with ageing, such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, co        gnitive impairment, alzheimer’s, immune dysfunction, cataract and macular degeneration. Also, certain conditions such as stress, chronic diseases and ageing can tip the balance in favour of free radical formation and can contribute to ill effects on health (Brittmarie, 2003)

Consumption of antioxidant rich foods is thought to provide protection against oxidative damage and contributes positive health benefits (Newsweek, 1994). Gester (1998) stated that a recent review of current literature suggests that combination of fruits and vegetables have synergistic effects on antioxidant activities leading to greater reduction in risk of chronic diseases, especially, cancer and heart disease. Health organizations have recognized the beneficial roles that fruits and vegetables could play to reduce risk of diseases and developed communication programmers to encourage consumers to eat more antioxidant rich fruits and vegetables daily (Droge, 2002). The role of antioxidant rich foods like fruits, vegetable, spices and whole grains in maintaining good health has been documented (Nutrihealth, 2005). The thrust of this study was to elicit information on the consumption pattern of antioxidant rich foods among the middle aged adults in Enugu North local government area of Enugu state Nigeria. This might provide a base to weigh their potentials to gain from the inestimable beneficial effects of wealth of antioxidant rich foods at their disposal for purposes of necessary recommendations.

1.2    General objective of the study

The main objective of the study was to elicit information on the consumption pattern of antioxidant rich foods by middle aged adults in Enugu North local government area of Enugu

State, Nigeria.

1.2.1   Specific objectives of the study

The specific objectives were to   -    assess the respondent’s general knowledge of food nutrients, sources and functions.  

 assess the respondent’s concepts of antioxidants, free radicals, their sources and  health implications. 

 assess the consumption pattern of antioxidant rich foods by the respondents.  determine the length of consumption pattern of antioxidant rich foods and   assess the factors that militate against adequate consumption of antioxidant rich foods                    by the respondents

1.3     Significance of the study

The result of this study would sensitize the state and federal Government of Nigeria,

Ministries of Health, Education and Nutrition experts to develop appropriate Nutrition Education and other programmes to improve nutrition and prevent most of the numerous age

related diseases.                                                                                                                                                     

It is expected that other Nutritionists and Scientists would be spurred to launch similar researches in other age groups and areas. 

The result of the study would be beneficial in raveling the adverse effects of insufficient intakes of antioxidant rich foods at older ages.

This study would also expose both foreign, local and obscured sources of powerful

antioxidant rich foods available to the inhabitants of Enugu North Local Government Area.    

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