The Health Advocate

by Hannah Whittenly, The Health Advocate

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Antioxidants are a buzzword of such popularity that even those without a particular interest in health or nutrition have probably heard something about them. Modern research and studies, especially those within the pharmaceutical and biotech field, have shown that antioxidants can be very beneficial to health and help prevent a wide variety of diseases. They also have multiple uses outside of food and nutrition.

What are Antioxidants?

Given the buzz surrounding the term, it can be easy to lose sight of what antioxidants really are and the truly simple role they play. Everything you really need to know about antioxidants is already in the name. They are molecules that work to neutralize free radicals and prevent the oxidation of other molecules.

Oxidation is the breakdown of organic materials. Think of an apple turning brown after you cut it open. The cells of the apple are oxidizing or breaking down after they are exposed to the open air. Why doesn’t the apple do this until you cut it open? Simply, the skin of the apple is loaded with antioxidants to prevent that, acting as a shield for the more sensitive flesh inside. This breakdown happens to basically all organic materials, including cells inside the body.

The Benefit of Oxidation

Before you think that antioxidants are all good and oxidation is all bad, keep in mind that everything in nature and in your body has a purpose. Oxidation is a tool your body uses on a daily basis to help fight off infections and bacteria. Without oxidation, you might actually get sick. The key is to find the right balance between oxidants and antioxidants. Eating a healthy diet is the best way to maintain this balance, while overuse of synthetic or concentrated antioxidants in supplements may have an adverse effect. The good news is that healthy foods such as fruits and vegetables tend to be loaded with antioxidants, and other enjoyable foods such as coffee, wine, chocolate and spices are also good sources.

How Antioxidants Keep You Healthy

Oxidation that is out of balance causes damage to cells and DNA. This leads to inflammation and cellular breakdown. Most medical experts attribute inflammation in one way or other to almost all chronic diseases afflicting humans. This includes especially cancer, arthritis, and many others. Protecting cells and DNA from oxidative stress prevents them from getting inflamed or malfunctioning. Cancer is primarily the result of malfunctioning cells, so antioxidants are especially important in cancer prevention.

While your body does produce oxidants naturally for a specific purpose, the damage of oxidation is usually caused by outside sources. Pollution and chemicals are major sources of oxidation in the body that it is not naturally designed to handle. This increase in exposure to pollution and chemicals is the primary reason modern humans need extra antioxidants just to maintain normal health.

Use of Antioxidants in Industry

Antioxidants are not just for putting into your body. They have a wide range of uses in industrial products and processes to help keep various substances stable. Most food preservatives are antioxidants even if they are not really designed to improve health. They are also added to a wide range of organic industrial products such as fuels, plastics, rubbers and adhesives to keep these materials functioning correctly. Most industrial uses of antioxidants contain synthetic antioxidants created by chemical companies in the biotech industry rather than the naturally occurring antioxidants people eat, but they are not less important or beneficial for their purpose.

It is important to pay attention to antioxidants. They are not a new nutrition fad that is going away, and they are vital to health and longevity. It is likely that research into antioxidants ...    Continue

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