Antioxidants are more than just a buzzword in the wellness industry. These substances are a fundamental aspect of cellular health and the preventative measures we can take to prevent or slow damage to cells created by free radicals. Learn more about the importance of a balanced diet rich in antioxidants, and learn about antioxidant's modern role in preventative and therapeutic strategies to promote cellular health.
What Do Antioxidants Actually Do?
Antioxidants inhibit the "oxidation process", acting as a defense system for our cells while neutralizing potentially harmful free radicals. Antioxidants do this by donating an electron, which effectively neutralizes a free radical and prevents it from causing cellular damage. This remarkable ability to handle free radicals, repair damage, and reduce inflammation is why antioxidants are crucial to our health.
Why Oxidation Is Harmful
Oxidation is a fundamental chemical reaction characterized by the loss of electrons from a molecule, atom, or ion. When a substance loses electrons, we say it has been "oxidized", with rust, browning of fruit, and the breakdown of our cellular structure being examples of this reaction. This chemical reaction can produce free radicals, leading to a chain reaction that damages our cells throughout the body.
Free radicals are compounds that can cause harm if their levels become too high. Our cells are exposed to the free radicals produced by reactions in our bodies, or from external sources like pollution, a poor diet, and smoking. These compounds can damage our cells, proteins, and DNA while being commonly linked as precursors to multiple illnesses and the promotion of cell mutation.
Antioxidants To Promote Cellular Health
Antioxidants play a crucial role in promoting cellular health by neutralizing free radicals that occur naturally during our body's metabolic processes, or introduced by external factors like radiation and pollution. When the production of these free radicals surpasses the body's natural defenses, it leads to oxidative stress, a major factor in aging and various diseases. By mitigating oxidative stress, antioxidants help maintain the integrity of cell membranes, proteins, and DNA, thereby supporting overall cellular function and reducing the risk of diseases related to oxidative damage.
At the cellular level, one of the most detrimental processes is oxidative stress. This is a situation where there's an imbalance between the production of free radicals (highly reactive and unstable molecules) and the ability of the body to counteract their harmful effects. Free radicals can harm cell membranes, enzymes, and even the DNA within cells. Such damage has been implicated in a range of diseases from atherosclerosis and cancer to neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's.
Antioxidants also protect our DNA from damage by free radicals that can lead to mutations and contribute to cancer development. The continuous damage to cellular components is a precursor to many diseases. For example, oxidative damage to lipids in the cell membrane can initiate a cascade of events leading to Heart Health damage. Antioxidants, by preventing such damage, will continue to play a potential role in preventative healthcare in more scenarios going forward.
Antioxidants + Inflammation Reduction
Oxidative stress happens when there's an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants in the body. And this cellular stress is often considered the root of many inflammatory issues. This inflammation causes cellular damage while perpetuating the inflammatory process, creating a vicious cycle where inflammation leads to increased oxidative stress, and vice versa.
Nutrients In Practice
Healthcare professionals have identified that chronic inflammation has been linked to many chronic health issues. Antioxidants' role as cellular protectors proactively neutralize free radicals, thereby limiting cellular damage and potential dampening of the inflammatory process. And growing evidence continues to support antioxidants as modulators of the activity of various inflammatory molecules and pathways.
The continuation of supporting research for antioxidants has resulted in more doctors prescribing these anti-inflammatory nutrients as part of a Total Body Wellness plan to reduce multiple health risks. Ask your doctor what having the right amount of antioxidants could mean for your own health.
Antioxidants + Your Diet
- Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid)
- Vitamin E (Tocopherol)
- Vitamin A
- Superoxide Dismutase (SOD)
- Alpha Lipoic Acid
Antioxidants play a multifaceted role in maintaining the health and function of our body. And ultimately, an antioxidant's effectiveness depends on the substance's concentration and absorption. Too little may not offer significant protection, while too much can sometimes be counterproductive or even harmful. Some antioxidants are also more effective against certain free radicals than others. By integrating a diverse range of antioxidant-rich foods into our diet, we not only enjoy delicious flavors but also equip our bodies with the tools they need to combat cellular damage and promote overall health. This includes both food sources and supplementation with highly absorbed antioxidant vitamins, minerals, and specialty nutrients.