Could antioxidants help reduce symptoms such as stress, anxiety and fatigue?

Due to the economic events occurring over the last year many people have felt under incredible stress.  A recent study (1) has found that an antioxidant supplement may be helpful in reducing symptoms such as fatigue, stress and anxiety which are fairly prevalent in developed populations at this current time.  There have been several suggestions in the scientific literature that there is a link between individual perceived stress and ‘oxidative stress’ – a kind of stress that occurs in the cells of our bodies when they are under attack by molecules known as ‘free radicals’.  In the body antioxidant defences are important to prevent damage by these free radical molecules which can cause inflammation and are linked to many diseases.  Our bodies contain many enzymes that act as antioxidants, a main one being SOD, superoxide dismutase.  The study mentioned (1) used a melon juice supplement that was high in SOD to see if it had any effect on individual symptoms of stress.

This pilot study (1) was well planned and included seventy healthy volunteers aged between 30 and 55 years, who felt daily stress and fatigue. They took the dietary melon supplement or a placebo once daily over a 4 week period. Symptoms of stress and fatigue were measured using four specific psychometric scales.

Supplementation with the melon concentrate supplement significantly improved perceived signs and symptoms of stress and fatigue linked to e.g. pain, sleep troubles, concentration, weariness, attitude, irritability compared to the placebo. In the same way, quality of life and perceived stress were significantly improved with supplementation (1).

One of the authors of the study said in a press release (2) “Several studies have shown that there is a link between psychological stress and intracellular oxidative stress. We wanted to test whether augmenting the body’s ability to deal with oxidative species might help a person’s ability to resist burnout. The 35 people in our study who received capsules containing superoxide dismutase showed improvement in several signs and symptoms of perceived stress and fatigue.” She added that ” It will be interesting to confirm these effects and better understand the action of antioxidants on stress in further studies with a larger number of volunteers and a longer duration.”

The best way of providing the body with antioxidants is to eat a diet that is rich in vegetables and fruits.  These foods provide antioxidant vitamins, minerals and bioflavonoids (bioactive plant compounds).  Antioxidant supplements made from natural berries and herbs are now also available to buy but should not be viewed or used as an alternative to a healthy diet.  If you feel that you are under particular stress/mental strain at the moment you may wish to increase the number of antioxidant containing foods in your diet.  If you are struggling to reach the daily minimum of 5 portions of vegetables and fruits then a good quality antioxidant supplement may be something you wish to consider in the short term in order to boost your antioxidant levels during periods of stress.

It will be interesting to see what further research uncovers in the realm of antioxidants and stress symptoms, with so many people feeling pressure in their lifes these kinds of studies could represent important steps toward helping to ease difficult symptoms.


(1)Milesi MA et al.  2009.  Effect of an oral supplementation with a proprietary melon juice concentrate (Extramel) on stress and fatigue in healthy people: a pilot, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial.  Nutrition Journal.  8:40 (15 September 2009)
(2)Press Release: Antioxidant Ingredient Proven To Relieve Stress. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 16, 2009, from

Written by Ani Kowal