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Importance of Antioxidants

Now-a-days, we hear a lot about antioxidants. Actually they are not new but we have become aware of them only recently.

DEFINITION

Antioxidants are substances which when present even in low concentration inhibit the rate of oxidation of the target.

MECHANISM OF ACTION

1) Physically they separate the free oxygen radicals from the susceptible molecules.

2) Provide other molecules, which effectively compete with oxygen

3) Lyse or break, inactivate and destroy free radicals.

4) Remove the damaged molecules and rapidly repair the injury or damage caused by free radicals.

FREE RADICALS AND THEIR HARM TO THE BODY.

Oxygen which gives us life can also destroy it. A good oxygen molecule is stable as it has its electrons paired up.

The environmental pollutants such as smog, toxins, herbicides, pesticides, food additives, radiation, cigarette smoke, rancid oils, drugs etc.enter our bodies and make oxygen molecule unstable with a missing electron thereby giving rise to a " free radical".

These go to war in the body causing cellular destruction. A free radical in trying to stabilize itself , by attacking another cell for the want of an electron causes the destruction of that particular cell. That cell in turn damages the adjacent cell creating a chain reaction.

This process is called " oxidation " that precipitates age and degenerative diseases.

DISEASES THAT CAN BE CAUSED BY FREE RADICALS

Atherosclerosis
Diabetes Mellitus
Hypertension
Carcinoma
Respiratory diseases-

Adult respiratory distress syndrome
Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis
Bronchitis and Emphysema

Inflammatory Diseases-
Rheumatoid Arthritis
Inflammatory bowel diseases
Pancreatitis

Ocular diseases-
Cataract
Senile Macular Diseases

Neurological Diseases-
Stroke
Parkinsonism

Trauma, Sepsis, Hypoxia

WAY TO COMBAT THE FREE RADICALS

The only way to combat these free radicals is to neutralize them with the help of antioxidants.

There are plenty of antioxidants found in nature . Also regular exercising and eating whole unrefined, unprocessed foods help the body in handling free radical attack.

SOURCES OF ANTIOXIDANTS

Antioxidants are found in -

1) Fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs

2) Sea foods and some animal foods

3) Human body can also produce a small number of antioxidants like glutathione and co- enzyme Q-10.

IMPORTANT ANTIOXIDANTS

The three important antioxidants are

Vitamin C
Vitamin E
Beta Carotene

They help you to stay healthy and stop or slow down the oxidation process by neutralizing the free radicals.
Also they make other antioxidants like Selenium , Bioflavinoids, Proanthocyanidins (P.C.O.'s) etc. more effective as they work hand in hand with each other.

VITAMIN C

It is one of the most powerful antioxidants and it enhances the benefits of the other antioxidants.

It is water soluble and so it diffuses in the total body and nullifies the free radicals formed in the water phase.

Benefits of Vitamin C -

1) Antioxidant effect as it is a powerful reducing agent and quickly reduces highly reactive radicals.
In addition to this Vitamin C generates Vitamin E from its oxidized radical form thus prolonging the antioxidant action of Vitamin E.

2) It reduces triglycerides, total cholesterol, L.D.L. and increases   H. D. L..

3) It is associated with the decrease in progress of atherosclerosis and decreases the mortality associated with it.

4) Helps to prevent and treat scurvy.

5) Helps to manufacture white blood cells and interferon which are soldiers of our body and thus helps top increase the resistance against pollutants.

6)Helps to reduce the allergy symptoms and so it is helpful in treating asthma

7) Strengthens blood vessels

Sources of Vitamin C

Citrus Fruits like oranges ,lemons grapes etc. Amla is the richest source.

Guava, Spinach, Cauliflower, Cabbage, Tomatoes, Whole milk

VITAMIN E

It being a lipid soluble takes care of the free radicals in the lipid phase

Benefits of Vitamin E

1) Protects the blood vessels , thins blood and prevents strokes

2) Prevents oxidation of L.D.L., and reduces the risk of atherosclerosis.

3) It dissolves the existing clots.

4) Protects the lungs against pollution

5) Powerful wound healer

6) Prevents growth of breast tumors and reduces the risk of cancer.

Sources of Vitamin E

Vegetable Oils like peanut oil, nuts like peanut, Whole grains, Wheat germ, Spinach, Butter, Egg, Shrimp, Apple, Chicken, Whole milk, Rice, Potatoes

BETA CAROTENE

It is dispersible in water and gets converted into Vitamin A which is lipid soluble and takes care of the free radicals in the lipid water interface

Benefits of beta carotene

1) Neutralize the free radicals

2) Helps to boost the immune system

3) Improves the rate of wound healing

4) Improves the skin quality , prevents dryness and hair loss.

5) reduces the risk of cancer

Sources of beta carotene

Carrots, Shark liver oil, cod liver oil, Spinach, Liver, Butter, Cheese, Tomatoes, Eggs, Sweet potatoes, orange Juice, Bananas, Whole milk

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