You may have heard a lot about antioxidants in relation to good health and avoiding diseases. Antioxidants have gotten great press, and rightfully so. But how do they work once inside our bodies, and what are some sources of antioxidants?
Have you ever seen the bottom-feeder fish in a fish-tank, sucking up all the gunk and grime? Think of antioxidants as molecular-sized, “free radical scavengers” in the fish-tank of your body.
Once an antioxidant finds its way into the body, mostly through the foods we eat, it slows down, or even prevents, the oxidation of other molecules. When molecules in the body oxidize, they can create free-radicals, or cellular by-products. It is very normal to have these free-radicals in the body, but in excess, they can wreak havoc on our cellular structures.
What Are Free Radicals?
Free radicals create a destructive process in our cells, causing the molecules within the cells to become unstable. They may even be a big player in the formation of cancerous cells by a “chain-reaction” effect, causing other cells to become damaged. Because of the inherent instability of free-radicals, they try to attack other healthy cells to get stable themselves. This causes the once-healthy cells to react in the same way, attacking others in an never-ending attempt for cellular stability.
In layman’s terms, free-radicals are bullies that start pushing everybody around, and encourage nice cells to become bullies as well. Just like most conflicts, the results are “free radical waste products” made up of our broken, injured and deformed cells. If our cells are weak, it is natural that our organs, tissues and skin of the body will likewise become weakened.
As you can imagine, oxidative damage plays a huge role in many of our modern-day diseases, such as muscle and tissue degeneration, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, as well as many other health problems. You are exposed to free radicals as a normal bi-product of regular bodily processes, like breaking down the food we eat, taking toxic medicines, as well as through exposure to pollutants. In addition, over-exposure to the sun (sunburn) and smoking can also increase your body’s need to oxidize and create free-radicals.
Antioxidants stop this cellular chain reaction of oxidation by neutralizing the free radicals. Many plants and animals keep large amounts of antioxidants on hand, due to their role in preventing cell damage, as well as their ability to repair damaged cells. Studies have shown that antioxidants can play a role in reducing the cell-damage of free radicals. The National Cancer Institute has stated that preliminary research in lab animals has shown that “antioxidants help prevent the free radical damage that is associated with cancer.” Many experts feel that increased antioxidants in the body can also help slow the process of aging, and may even increase longevity.
3 examples of antioxidants are reservation, CoQ10, and Grape seed extract.