What do antioxidants do?
You may have heard about antioxidants. You know that they are good for you but maybe you don’t know why or what they do. They fight free radicals. They stop the chain reaction of oxidation that free radicals cause when they steal electrons from lipid (fat) molecules in the body. A healthy body can normally deal with free radicals but aging appears to reduce the effectiveness of this process. The cumulative damage from free radical oxidation contributes to the deterioration we call aging.
And what are free radicals?
Free radicals are organic molecules with an odd number of electrons. They seek to stabilize themselves by stealing an electron from another molecule. They prefer to steal the needed electron from lipid molecules in the cells in a process called lipid peroxidation. When the lipid molecules lose an electron, they rearrange themselves to permit them to react with oxygen to form a peroxyl radical. The peroxyl radical then steals an electron from another lipid molecule causing a chain reaction. It takes an antioxidant molecule to stop the reaction. The antioxidant molecule gives up an electron and thus becomes a free radical itself. It is different, however, in being able to accommodate the loss of the electron without continuing the chain. Continue reading