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  • Anti-oxidants



    Antioxidants are substances or nutrients in our foods which can prevent or slow oxidative damage to our body. When our body cells use oxygen, they naturally produce free radicals (by-products) which can cause damage. Antioxidants act as “free radical scavengers” and hence prevent and repair damage done by these free radicals. Health problems such as heart disease, macular degeneration**, diabetes, cancer are all contributed by oxidative damage. Antioxidants may also enhance immune defense and therefore lower the risk of cancer and infection.

    **: macular degeneration – loss of vision in the center of the visual field (the macula) because of damage to the retina

    An antioxidant is a molecule capable of inhibiting the oxidation of other molecules. Oxidation is a chemical reaction that transfers electrons from a substance to an oxidizing agent. Oxidation reactions can produce free radicals. In turn, these radicals can start chain reactions that damage cells. Antioxidants terminate these chain reactions by removing free radical intermediates, and inhibit other oxidation reactions. They do this by being oxidized themselves, so antioxidants are often reducing agents such as thiols, ascorbic acid or polyphenols.

    Although oxidation reactions are crucial for life, they can also be damaging; hence, plants and animals maintain complex systems of multiple types of antioxidants, such as glutathione, vitamin C, and vitamin E as well as enzymes such as catalase, superoxide dismutase and various peroxidases. Low levels of antioxidants, or inhibition of the antioxidant enzymes, cause oxidative stress and may damage or kill cells.

    As oxidative stress might be an important part of many human diseases, the use of antioxidants in pharmacology is intensively studied, particularly as treatments for stroke and neurodegenerative diseases. Antioxidants are widely used as ingredients in dietary supplements and have been investigated for the prevention of diseases such as cancer, coronary heart disease and even altitude sickness.

    Most commonly known Anti-oxidants
    – Vitamin A and Carotenoids
    – Vitamin C
    – Vitamin E
    – Selenium
    Other common Anti-oxidants
    Some common phytochemicals
    – Flavonoids / polyphenols
    – Lycopene
    – Lutein
    – Lignan
    Vitamin-like Anti-oxidants
    – Coenzyme Q10
    – Glutathione
    Anti-oxidant enzymes made by the body
    – superoxide dismatase (SOD)
    – catalase
    – glutathione peroxidase

    It is best to obtain antioxidants from foods instead of supplements.
    In addition, minimize the exposure of oxidative stress such as smoking and sunburn.

    sources:
    Anti-oxidants 101 (healthcastle.com)
    Anti-oxidants (wikipedia.org)