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Uses of Antioxidants

8/24/2012 12:42:21 PM | by Anonymous

Antioxidants

To understand antioxidants, one must first understand that the prefix “anti” means against or in opposition to. As its name would imply, antioxidants oppose oxidation. Although oxidation can be advantageous in some cases, it can also be harmful in some instances. Oxidation is the chemical reaction whereby electrons are transferred from a substance to an oxidizing agent. The reaction produces free radicals that start chain reaction damaging or killing cells. Antioxidants are molecules that can inhibit or slow down the oxidation of molecules. They are able to do this by removing free radical intermediates to prevent oxidation, and being oxidized themselves. Due to these properties, antioxidants are known as reducing agents.

 

In the human body, many processes require oxygen to occur. However aside from benefiting the body; oxygen (which causes oxidation) can also cause cell damage which can lead to several diseases. Oxidants can be introduced to a body through exposure to the sun or pollution, consuming alcoholic beverages, stress and inhaling tobacco smoke. Similarly to as how oxidation can create rust on a metal surface, oxidation within the body causes breakdown of cells. As the free radicals are produced due to the breakdown of cells, this chain reaction continues, weakening the body immune system. The process also speeds up aging process and causes several other diseases, thus anti oxidants are used to limit the effects of oxidants and prevent any harmful effects on the body. Aside from being used in medicine, antioxidants also have many uses in the industrial sector, serving as a preservative in foods and cosmetics and also preventing the degradation of rubber and gasoline.

 

Antioxidants are able to reduce or limit the effects of dangerous oxidants by binding with the molecules, thus decreasing their destructive power. Aside from reducing and preventing damage, antioxidants are also able to repair any damage that had been sustained by cells. Antioxidants may not always be synthetically made, and can even be naturally occurring within the human bode, such as Superoxide Dismutase and Catalase. Superoxide Dismutase has the ability to break down the structure of oxidants into hydrogen peroxide, which is then broken down by Catalse into water and oxygen particles. Antioxidants has also been found to be naturally occurring in brightly coloured vegetables and fruits such as carrots, tomatoes, oranges and peppers, along with green leafy vegetables and items that are high in vitamin A, C and E. Also, when eaten raw, these foods provide the highest concentrations of antioxidants. Manufacturers now also provide supplements for people who do not consume sufficient foods that contain antioxidants.

 

Uses of Antioxidants

Fertility

According to studies conducted, it was determined that men who took antioxidants supplements such as vitamin C and E were four times more likely to be able to cause conception as compared to other sub-fertile men who did not take any form of antioxidant supplement. Antioxidants are able to help prevent any damages that stress can cause due to oxidants, and help sperm stay healthy for longer periods of time, thereby aiding conception.

 

Diabetes

A study published in “Diabetic Care” stated that consuming food that are rich in antioxidants can help reduce or prevent the risk of type 2 diabetes. Antioxidants can also help treat painful conditions that diabetes may cause, reducing pain and repairing damaged tissues.

 

Infection

As antioxidants are able to prevent free oxygen radical damage to the immune system, they promote the proper functioning of the body’s immune system. A study found that when patients suffering from hepatitis C took antioxidant supplements, their response rate to antiviral therapy were much enhanced as compared to patients who did not take the supplements.

 

Summary

Antioxidants are very beneficial substances as they aid many process, be it for medical use or for industrial use. As they are naturally occurring in many fruits and vegetables, they are easily available and promote healthy living.

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