What Is Antioxidant?
An antioxidant is any substance that prevents or slows the breakdown of another substance by oxygen. In the body, nutrients such as beta-carotene (a vitamin A precursor), vitamin C, vitamin E, and selenium have been found to perform as antioxidants. They act by scavenging free radicals, which are normal product of metabolism; the body produces its own antioxidants to keep free radicals in balance.
However, stress, aging, and environmental contaminants (such as polluted air and cigarette smoke) can add to the number of free radicals in the body, creating an imbalance. The highly reactive free radicals can damage healthy DNA and have been linked to changes that accompany aging ( such as age-related macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness in older people) and with disease processes that lead to cancer, heart disease and stroke.
Studies have suggested that the antioxidants that occur naturally in fresh fruits and vegetables have a protective effect. For example, vitamin E and beta-carotene appear to protect cell membranes, and vitamin C removes free radicals from inside the cell.
Antioxidants in the form of dietary supplements do not appear to counteract the effects of increased numbers of free radicals in the body; in fact they may actually predispose us to a greater risk of disease.
Recent studies indicate that regular consumption of such supplements may interfere with the body’s own production of antioxidants. These findings underscore the significance of obtaining our antioxidants directly from fruits and vegetables.
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This site howstuffworks on antioxidant is also a good read.
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