Antioxidants are, without a doubt, an essential part of optimal health. Even conventional Western physicians now acknowledge the significance of getting sufficient antioxidants from your diet or taking high-quality antioxidant supplements.
But do you know how antioxidants function in your body and what types you need?
I have compiled all the basic facts about antioxidants to broaden your understanding of these nutrients, for you to better appreciate their importance in keeping you youthful and healthy.
What Are Antioxidants?
Antioxidants are a class of molecules that are capable of inhibiting the oxidation of another molecule. Your body naturally circulates various nutrients in your body due to their antioxidant properties. It also manufactures antioxidant enzymes in order to control free radical chain reactions.
Some antioxidants are produced by your body, but some are not. In addition, your body’s natural antioxidant production can decline as you age.
Antioxidants play a significant role in your health, as they can control how fast you age by fighting free radicals.
The Health Benefits of Antioxidants: How Do They Prevent Free Radical Damage?
In order to fully understand how antioxidants truly benefit your wellbeing, you should first be familiar with free radical formation.
Biogerontologist Denham Harman was the first to discover the concept of free radicals in 1954, while researching an explanation for aging. Free radicals are a type of a highly reactive metabolite that is naturally produced by your body as a result of normal metabolism and energy production. They are your natural biological response to environmental toxins like cigarette smoke, sunlight, chemicals, cosmic and manmade radiation, and are even a key feature of pharmaceutical drugs.
Your body also produces free radicals when you exercise and when you have inflammation anywhere in your body.
Free radical molecules are missing one or more electrons, and this missing electron is responsible for biological oxidation. The incomplete molecules aggressively attack other molecules in order to replace their missing parts. These reactions are called “oxidation” reactions. Oxidation is called “biological rusting,” an effect caused by too much oxygen in your tissues.
Free radicals steal electrons from the proteins in your body, which badly damages your DNA and other cell structures. They can create a “snowballing effect” – as molecules steal from one another, each one becomes a new free radical, leaving a trail of biological carnage.
Free radicals tend to collect in cell membranes (lipid peroxidation), which makes the cell lipids prone to oxidative damage. When this happens, the cell membrane becomes brittle and leaky, causing the cell to eventually fall apart and die.
Free radicals can severely affect your DNA by disrupting the duplication of DNA, interfering with DNA maintenance and breaking open or altering its structure by reacting with the DNA bases. Free radicals are linked to over 60 different diseases, including:
- Parkinson’s disease
- Alzheimer’s disease
If your body does not get adequate protection, free radicals can become rampant, causing your cells to perform poorly. This can lead to tissue degradation and put you at risk of diseases. This is where antioxidants come in.
Antioxidants are electron donors. They can break the free radical chain reaction by sacrificing their own electrons to feed free radicals, but without turning into free radicals themselves.
Antioxidants are nature’s way of providing your cells with adequate defense against attack by reactive oxygen species (ROS). As long as you have these important micronutrients, your body will be able to resist aging caused by your everyday exposure to pollutants. If you don’t have an adequate supply of antioxidants to help squelch free radicals, then you can be at risk of oxidative stress, which leads to accelerated tissue and organ damage.
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