Free radicals are substances that have unpaired electrons. These substances act like “electron scavengers,” in that they snatch away electrons from other chemicals, thus turning these chemicals into free radicals on the prowl for electrons. This ongoing robbing of electrons can result in damage to critical chemicals needed for life processes.
Antioxidants are molecules that donate electrons to free radicals, but do not become a free radical themselves. When a free radical gains the electron from an antioxidant, it has paired electrons and can no longer damage cells by stealing electrons. The antioxidant can lose an electron without becoming a free radical. All is well!
Your body produces antioxidants as well as extracts them from the foods you eat, such as from fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, meats, and oil.
Antioxidant defense within the cell includes:
Vitamin C is one of the water-soluble antioxidants inside cells.
Vitamin E is the most potent antioxidant within a cell’s membrane. (oil-soluble)
Are All Oxidation Reactions in Your Body Bad?
No! In fact, oxidation reactions are necessary for life.
Respiration is the oxidation of glucose to form ATP, chemical energy molecules necessary for life.
But,oxidation reactions can produce free radicals, which can start chain reactions that damage cells. Antioxidants can stop these chain reactions by neutralizing free radicals and inhibit other oxidation reactions
A free radical is any atom, often oxygen and/or nitrogen, with at least one unpaired electron in the atom’s outermost energy shell, and is capable of independent existence
Free radicals are “electron scavengers.”
Free radicals steal electrons from other atoms.
Free radicals are highly reactive due to the presence of unpaired electron(s).
Free radical containing oxygen may be referred to as a reactive oxygen specie (ROS).
When your body is properly functioning, the free radicals from oxidation reactions crucial for life are “defused” by one of the multiple types of antioxidants produced are collected from food you eat. In other words, there is a balance of production of free radicals needing electrons and the availability of antioxidants that can safely donate these electrons without becoming a free radical themselves.
Do You Need to Take Antioxidant Supplements?
This question should only be answered by your physician.
You can find information stating that stress along with the unhealthy food we eat and the polluted air we breathe increase the production of free radicals in our bodies. Those supporting the need of supplements generally offer products containing antioxidant supplements. Results from clinical test studies may be given.
Can you explain the following statement. Clue: Many antioxidants are water soluble, which means that any excess is considered waste.
AMERICANS ARE SAID TO HAVE THE MOST EXPENSIVE URINE IN THE WORLD.
On the flip side, articles negate the need to take antioxidant supplements. This group may provide information about initial studies suggesting that antioxidant supplements might promote health, but when the number in the test group was increased the results did not detect any benefit and suggested instead that excess supplementation may be harmful.
Reports containing the results of case studies supporting the use of any supplement or not supporting taking supplements on the surface gives the author credibility. As a scientist, I suggest that you not be swayed by this information without specifics about the testing. Consider these questions:
I wonder…How many people were tested? Ten, twenty, thousands?
I wonder…What criteria was used to select the test group? The age and health of the test group would affect the results.
I wonder…How long was the testing period? It would take time for the body to noticeably respond. How much time?
I wonder…What was the control for the investigation? WOW! This question brings up the need to have a controlled investigation. In other words, the test group would have to be contained in the same environment, eat the same food, breathe the same air, etc… in order to keep all possible variables except the addition of the antioxidant supplement.
I wonder…What was the criteria for determining whether the test supported the hypothesis for the investigation.
After thinking about the testing, no wonder research scientists prefer to use lab rats instead of people. They have control over the test subjects.