What is called Antioxidants?

antioxidantsIn order to promote metabolism process a living organism utilizes oxygen and intakes dietary nutrients for getting energy to survive.

Thus, oxygen is a vital element for living.

Oxygen causes chemical reactions to metabolize proteins, fats and carbohydrates and energy is produced.

Oxygen side effect

Being one of the most vital components for living, oxygen bears certain side effects. The component is an extremely reactive atom, capable of turning into part of potentially harmful molecules which are normally called free radicals.

What are free radicals?

The mentioned free radicals have the capacity to attack the healthy cells of the organism. These attacks may cause severe health damages, disorders and diseases. The damage of cells can result in:

  • cancer;
  • cardiovascular (heart) disease;
  • brain function disorders;
  • poor immune function etc.

Totally, about 50 diseases can appear after free radicals attack on the living body.

There is an unpaired electron contained in free radicals which are unstable. Reaching out electrons from other substances they capture them and neutralize themselves. At the first stage free radicals get stabilized but another are generated in the process. A chain reaction starts in a short time and only within a few seconds thousands of new free radicals occur during the initial reaction.

ROS (reactive oxygen species)

Reactive oxygen species gather around all highly reactive molecules containing oxygen together with free radicals. The types of ROS are hydrogen peroxide, hydroxyl radical, nitric oxide radical, superoxide anion radical, hypochlorite radical, singlet oxygen and various lipid peroxides. The reaction with nucleic acids, proteins, membrane lipids, enzymes and other small molecules begins.

Oxidative stress

The term means an unbalance between antioxidant and pro-oxidants mechanisms. This leads to immoderate oxidative metabolism.

Several environmental factors can become the reason of this stress: alcohol, poor diet, medications, exposure to pollutants, toxins, infections, radiation etc.

Oxidative damage to proteins and other macromolecules can result in a great number of diseases mainly cancer and heart diseases.

How to control the free radicals

Generally, it is antioxidants, beneficial compounds that naturally control the formation of free radicals. If the deficiency of these antioxidants occurs the damage from free radicals can become debilitating and cumulative.

Antioxidants are compounds that can deactivate and stabilize free radical to prevent the from their attack.

Food containing antioxidants

The basic food nutrients containing antioxidants are: Vitamins C and E and beta carotene which are mostly studied and considered dietary antioxidants.

The most important antioxidant which is soluble in water in extracellular fluids is Vitamin C. Vitamin C promotes the neutralization of ROS in aqueous phase and in water before reactive oxygen species can attack the lipids.

food cotaining antioxidants
The most important antioxidant which is lipid soluble is Vitamin E. This Vitamin being within the cell membrane serves as the chain-breaking antioxidant component. Vitamin E protects fatty acids found in the membrane from peredxidation of lipid. In combination with Vitamin C this Vitamin can be regenerated.

Antioxidant properties are also inherent to caratenoids such as beta carotene. Carotenids operate in cooperation with Vitamin E.

Deficiencies of antioxidants

If one sticks to low fat diet the absorption of Vitamin E, and beta carotene and other fat-soluble nutrients impairs. The important source of carotenoids and Vitamin C is fruits and vegetables. A major source of Vitamin E is wholegrain products and high quality vegetable oils.

Substances known as phytonutrients and phytochemicals are substances derived from plants. They also bear antioxidant properties. Flavonoids (phenolic compounds) are such chemicals as well. The latter is found in a number of fruits, vegetables and extracts of green tea.

Antioxidants produced by the body of a human being

Alongside with the diet the body itself has mechanisms with antioxidant properties and protects the organism from ROS damages. These are antioxidant enzymes: catalase, glutathione peroxidase and superoxide dismutase (SOD). To make them active micronutrient cofactors are required: iron, selenium, zinc, manganese and copper. Low antioxidant activity can be stipulated by an inadequate diet schedule with lack of the mentioned trace minerals.

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