ANTIOXIDANTS, OXIDANTS & FREE RADICALS: THE BASICS

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For those who do not know, free radicals are unstable molecules with an unpaired electron – the body can also produce free radicals from: the food you eat, your surrounding environment and from the oxygen metabolism.

Free radicals are very reactive and can cause harm to our DNA. Because the electron is unpaired, the free radical can “provide or steal” to and from another molecule. Cellular damage happens when these free radicals react with other molecules inside the body.

Too clarify: Oxidants are a series of compounds within the body, and oxidants can be labelled as a type of free radical. For the simplicity and generalness of this article we will also classify oxidants as free radicals. They become much more complex when researched which we won’t get deeply into in this article.

The most associated free radical related to human disease is the hydroxyl radicals, followed by hypochlorites and then nitric oxide radicals and so on. In addition, we ingest varying quantities of Advanced Glycation End-products (AGEs) every time we eat food cooked via the Maillard Reaction (eg. food cooked using dry heat at temperatures above 135 deg.C) – and there are potentially hundreds of different types of AGEs in various foods with many of them known to be free radicals.

Pretty straight forward so far- Well not entirely.

A largely popular study called Supplementation en Vitamines et Mineraux Antioxydants had over 13,000 person sample size in France for nearly eight years and was completed in 2004 -discovered that antioxidant supplements appear to provide some protective benefits to males but not to females in terms of certain cancers and mortality rates. The scientists theorized that I general, adult males consumes less antioxidants in their daily diets than adult females therefore the supplements had a therapeutic effect. – So if you are already eating enough antioxidants in your diet then supplement will have no added positive benefits to your health.

The main dietary antioxidants identified and utilised by the body are beta-carotene, Vitamin A, Vitamin C and Vitamin E. These antioxidants work by either adding or subtracting a single electron to or from free radicals, hence curbing the reactivity of many free radical compounds.

Furthermore, superoxide’s are created by the body’s own metabolism, this is controlled by a group of enzymes called Superoxide Dismutase (SOD) which are established around trace metals such as zinc and magnesium. These enzymes deal with superoxide’s in much the same way as antioxidants, by safely adding or removing an electron to/from the superoxide, thus hindering its reactivity to other molecules.

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