Everyone knows that antioxidants are good and help provide several health benefits to our bodies. However, what are free radicals and what do they do to our bodies?
We hope to answer some of your questions about antioxidants and free radicals in this article, while explaining just how much damage free radicals can cause on the human body, as well as how helpful and powerful antioxidants are.
Free radicals are atoms, or groups of atoms, with an odd (unpaired) number of electrons and can be formed when oxygen interacts with certain molecules. These highly reactive radicals, once formed, can start a chain reaction.
The main problem with free radicals occurs when they react with important cellular components such as DNA, or the cell membranes. When this happens, cells begin to function poorly, or die altogether.
This leads to an overall decline in a person’s health and several health concerns like heart disease, diabetes, stroke, increased aging and cancer just to name a few. The human body has a defense system called antioxidants to prevent this damage from happening.
Antioxidants are molecules that safely interact with free radicals and put an end to the chain reaction before vital molecules are damaged. Although there are several enzyme systems within the body that combat free radicals, the main micronutrient (vitamin) antioxidants are vitamin E, beta-carotene and vitamin C.
Antioxidants’ role in preventing cancer and heart disease
Research has shown lower rates of cancer in people whose diets are rich in foods that contain large amounts of antioxidants. Studies have also shown that, antioxidant packed, green tea can help improve your circulatory system by improving the function of certain types of cells that occur in this system. This helps to fight against heart disease and keep your heart healthy before serious issues develop.
Intense scientific research is being conducted into antioxidants and whether or not they are beneficial in the fight against cancer and heart disease.
Are antioxidants the fountain of youth?
Antioxidants are also thought to have a role in slowing the aging process as well as other significant health benefits. Research data is being updated regularly, so there will be much more information on the health benefits of antioxidants in the near future.
The effects of exercise on free radicals
Endurance exercise can increase oxygen use from 10 to 20 times compared to when the body is resting. This greatly increases the generation of free radicals, arousing concern about enhanced damage to muscles and other tissues. The question is, how can athletes effectively defend against the increased free radicals resulting from exercise and do they need an intake of extra antioxidants?
It isn’t yet clear what portion of antioxidants is required by the human body and how this differs from person to person. However, these questions and others are being researched extensively and are expected to be answered within the next couple of years.
There is a major push by scientists to answer these questions because they may be at the root of how we can prevent, or even eliminate several serious health concerns that claim the lives of large portions of the population every year.
Over time, free radicals are capable of doing an extreme amount of damage to the human body and without combatting this damage to cells, the health problems can become very serious and irreversible.
Antioxidants provide a powerful defense against the damage caused by free radicals and can prevent a lot of the damage caused by them before reaching the point of no return.
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