How are free radicals formed?
Normally, bonds don’t split in a way that leaves a molecule with an odd, unpaired electron. But when weak bonds split, free radicals are formed. Free radicals are very unstable and react quickly with other compounds, trying to capture the needed electron to gain stability. Generally, free radicals attack the nearest stable molecule, stealing its electron. When the attacked molecule loses its electron, it becomes a free radical itself, beginning a chain reaction. Once the process is started, it can cascade, finally resulting in the disruption of a living cell.
Some free radicals arise normally during metabolism. Sometimes the body’s immune system cells purposefully create them to neutralize viruses and bacteria. However, environmental factors such as pollution, radiation, cigarette smoke and herbicides can also spawn free radicals.
The body can usually handle free radicals, but if antioxidants are unavailable, or if free radical production becomes excessive, oxidation can occur. Of particular importance is that oxidation caused by free radicals accumulates with age.
How can the use of antioxidants fight against free radicals?
The vitamins C and E are thought to protect the body against the negative effects of free radicals. Antioxidants neutralize free radicals by donating one of their own electrons, ending the electron-stealing reaction. The antioxidant nutrients themselves don’t become free radicals by donating an electron, because they are stable in either form. They act as scavengers, helping neutralize free radicals.
Vitamin E is the most abundant fat-soluble antioxidant in the body. It is one of the most efficient, chain-breaking antioxidants available. It is a primary defender against oxidation and lipid peroxidation (creation of unstable molecules containing more oxygen than is usual).
Vitamin C is the most abundant water-soluble antioxidant in the body. It acts primarily in cellular fluid. It is particularly effective in combating free-radical formation caused by pollution and cigarette smoke. It also helps return vitamin E to its active form.
What foods contain antioxidants?
Fruits and vegetables contain the most antioxidants. The problem is that when we process fruits and vegetables, many of the antioxidants are removed. So, even eating a diet high in fruits and vegetables cannot guarantee you will get enough antioxidants. Still, it is a good place to start.
What is the best antioxidant to take?
The best way to fight free radicals is with a collection of antioxidants. There is not one single antioxidant that is most effective. In order to be effective, there must be a team of antioxidants all working together. When you supplement with a team of antioxidants, you will find that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
How does an antioxidant supplement help someone who works out?
Working out increases the number of free radicals in the body. By taking an antioxidant supplement directly after a workout, you can help reduce the oxidative stress on your body. By reducing the free radicals, you are putting your body into a more balanced mode. Understand that the idea is not to eliminate free radicals — just to restore a proper balance.