What are Antioxidants? Everything explained

Free radical damage can come from many things that put the body under stress. Things such as the sun, alcohol, toxins and pollutants, fatty foods, smoking and even exercise.

Essentially, free radicals can cause inflammation and typically causes ageing over time within the body, this is not something we can avoid but it something we can simply ‘slow down’. Apart from general ageing within the skin and bodily processes not working as efficiently as they used to, conditions caused by free radical damage can be cardiovascular disease, Type II diabetes, cataracts, macula degeneration, Alzheimer’s disease and cancer.

Free radicals come in a few forms (reactive oxygen species): oxygen, hydrogen peroxide and hydroxyl molecules. These free radicals are unstable molecules which therefore makes them dangerous are they are then susceptible to reacting to enzymes, Low Density Lipoproteins and cell membranes within the body.

Antioxidants come in as they can stabilise free radicals by taking one electron away or adding one electron to the free radical molecule which makes it stable and therefore then unable to react within the body and cause damage.

Naturally we have antioxidant defence systems within the body and the reasons ‘antioxidants’ get promoted through food is because these antioxidant defence systems require co-factors for the enzymes to work and these cofactors can be taken in through food.

The endogenous antioxidant defence system is produced naturally within the body and has three enzymes which do require the following cofactors to work:

  • Zinc
  • Copper
  • Manganese
  • Iron
  • Selenium

If these minerals are deficient within the body, increasing the intake will boost your antioxidant capacity within the body.

The exogenis antioxidants which are provided from the diet consist of:

  • Vitamin A, E & C
  • Selenium
  • Iron
  • Copper
  • Zinc
  • Manganese
  • Polyphenols

I hope this makes sense and can help you figure out why some things are marketed to have ‘antioxidants’, basically this is a marketing strategy and the food may contain some of these vitamins and minerals which mean they have co-factors that support our natural antioxidant defence system rather than containing antioxidants themselves.

In the next coming weeks I will be introducing these vitamins and minerals individually and talking about how we can increase these sources through our diet and why they are important. Any questions feel free to contact me!