How Antioxidants Work
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How Antioxidants Work

Antioxidants including vitamins A, C and E along with betacarotene can help prevent oxidative damage to cells which is an important factor in many diseases such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes. But how do antioxidants work?

The role that antioxidants play in health versus disease has been researched since the 1980s and is now beginning to play a role in modern medical science, in much the same way as vitamin C is known as a cure for scurvy and vitamin D for rickets. In the near future our antioxidant status may well be considered as vital as blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Diseases linked to low antioxidant activity include Alzheimer’s, cancer, diabetes, infertility, macular degeneration, mental disorders and cardiovascular disease.

Oxidation, or oxidative damage, is now being studied as a key factor linked with disease and aging. Antioxidants, which include vitamins A, C and E, along with betacarotene, help protect against this damage. Eating a diet high in fresh fruit and vegetables will supply the body with good levels of these antioxidants.

Oxidation occurs when oxygen becomes unstable. This can lead to damaged cells that may trigger diseases such as cancer, inflammation and aging. These are also called free oxidizing radicals, or free radicals, which are formed by any combustion process, such as frying or barbecuing food, radiation, car exhaust fumes, smoking and even normal body processes. Antioxidants combat the negative effects of this oxidation process.

Research has shown that low calorie diets high in antioxidant nutrients from fruit and vegetables, can slow down the aging process by reducing oxidative stress on the body. Animal studies showed that they lived up to 40 percent longer and were more active during their lives. On the other end of the scale, lower levels of vitamins A, C and E were linked to Alzheimer’s disease. Elderly people with low levels of vitamin C were 11 times more likely to develop cataracts compared with those who had high levels, and in those with low blood levels of vitamin E, the risk almost doubled.

Antioxidants also help fight infection and boost the immune system. Research has shown children taking regular vitamin A supplements had significantly less respiratory tract infections than those not taking the supplements. Antioxidants may also help reduce the symptoms of AIDS and in a small number of cases, have reversed the condition to a certain extent. They also play a positive role in reducing the inflammation associated with arthritis and help fight off the common cold and chronic fatigue symptoms.

Antioxidants tend to work together as a team. The main players are vitamins A, C and E, betacarotene, glutathione, anthocyanidins, lipoic acid and CoQ10. While taking vitamins C or E on their own is unlikely to cause much harm, it is wise to take antioxidants, particularly beta carotene together. This not only means you will be getting full advantage of their joint potential but it also avoids any possible adverse reactions from taking beta carotene on its own. While generally speaking beta carotene prevents risk from a wide range of cancers, some studies showed it raised cancer risk in smokers. Several trails showed a small increase in risk of cancer for those who smoked, and took beta carotene on its own. One possible explanation for this may be that the oxidants in cigarettes were oxidizing the beta carotene, and because the participants of the trial were not taking any other antioxidants in conjunction with the betacarotene, it may have done more harm than good. To be on the safe side, it is probably best to supplement beta carotene with other antioxidants.

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Comments (3)

Nice, informative, well written article! Voted up.

nice, i like it

Welcome, your article was well presented and one I am most interested other than cooking..voted