Many people proclaim the health benefits of antioxidants. But what do antioxidants do? Do antioxidants really protect against various diseases? This post will answer those questions!
What do antioxidants do?
?An antioxidant is a molecule that inhibits the oxidation of other molecules. So why is this important in the human body? Well, oxidation reactions can produce things known as ‘free radicals’. These free radicals are very reactive. If they get into your cells, they will start chain reactions that cause serious damage in the cells. This can lead to many health problems such as cancer, stroke and diabetes. It is believed that most types of cancer are caused by free radicals reacting with DNA causing mutations. Free radicals in cigarettes are blamed for smokers getting lung cancer.
Antioxidants stops the harmful effects of these free radicals. An antioxidant will react with molecules before they can be oxidized and produce free radicals. Alternatively, the antioxidant will stop (inhibit) oxidation reactions completely.
There are some studies, however, that have shown that antioxidant supplements do not reduce the risk of getting heart diseases and cancer. However, diets high in fruit and vegetables (which contain many antioxidants) promote better health. In fact, those who eat lots of fruit and vegetables are much less likely to get cancers and have heart problems. In light of this conflicting evidence, scientists are still trying to determine the importance of antioxidants in the body.
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