Antioxidant Protection

These days, the terms antioxidants and free radicals are everywhere – from TV and magazine ads and articles to supermarkets and doctors’ offices. We constantly hear how important antioxidants are to our health in order to avoid free radical damage in the body. But what exactly does that mean?

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Free Radicals and Oxidation

Free radicals are charged atoms or molecules in the body that seek to stabilize themselves by stealing electrons from other cells, thus causing damage to those cells. These particles are created when oxygen reacts with fat molecules in the body. This process, also known as oxidation, is a normal process that takes place in the body as a result of regular metabolism. (A good illustration of oxidation is rusting metal. Oxygen reacting with the metal causes damage – in this case, rust.) Oxidation can be accelerated by exposure to sunlight, alcohol, smoking, and pollution. The cumulative effects of oxidative damage cause aging. Oxidative damage is also known to initiate many diseases, including heart disease and cancer.

Antioxidants

Antioxidants are compounds that donate their own electrons to the free radicals, thereby preventing cellular damage. Once an antioxidant donates its electron, it is no longer able to function as an antioxidant. That is why we must constantly resupply the body with these compounds. Antioxidants such as vitamin C, vitamin E, selenium, and beta-carotene are very important in protecting against heart disease, cancer, and a host of other degenerative diseases. In addition, they are also thought to slow the aging process.