The term antioxidant naturally makes one question about oxidation and its process first. Oxidation is a normal physiological occurrence in the animal tissue. Your body needs a balance of oxidation process with antioxidants for good health. Antioxidants are vitamins, minerals and enzymes and they have a role to play in preventing serious diseases such as stroke, cancer, heart disease, cataracts, rheumatoid arthritis and Alzheimer’s disease.
Antioxidants are needed for what is called the oxidative stress created by production of damaging molecules known as free radicals. Now, there needs to be a balance between the antioxidants and free radicals so that their effects are neutralized. Otherwise the free radicals, that are chemically active atoms react with the cells of the body and lead to their decay. The free radicals have one or more excess or deficient electrons that are unpaired. They need this condition balanced for which they can react with cells, proteins and genetic material called DNA.
If you have seen oils becoming rancid, apples with their skin taken off turning brown and rusting of iron, you know what oxidation is. Oxidation is the norm in all living creatures as aerobic respiration, the metabolic process and inflammation result in oxidation. Contributory factors are pollution, X-rays; overstrain in exercise, smoking and alcohol consumption.
How Antioxidants Neutralise Free Radicals
Your body needs constant supply of antioxidants to neutralise the effect of the unending oxidation going on in your body. There are two ways in which antioxidants work to balance the effect of free radicals:
- Chain-breaking – Antioxidants put an end to the chain of chemical reactions that go on because of the unpaired electron in the free radicals. The process of taking electrons or charging it with excessive electron would go on if it were not for the chain-breaking effect of an antioxidant. Otherwise, the oxidised molecule would turn into a decayed product of the chemical reaction.
- Stopping the start of chain reactions – Antioxidant enzymes such as catalase stop the process of oxidation by stopping them before they even initiate. By reducing the rate of initiation of chain reactions, they prevent the process of oxidation. They also play a part in preventing the oxidation of transition metals such as iron and copper which are needed in your body.
Antioxidants are needed for a balanced and healthy body and you need make yourself aware on the types most suitable for you.
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