Well, if you recall your high school Chemistry class, Oxidation was covered. It was actually one of my favourite topics getting to learn about painting and galvanising metals not just as a decorative but preventive measure in the Manufacturing Industry. Apparently, our bodies seem to be having the same problem with Oxygen!
Let me walk you through it! Oxidation is a chemical reaction that can produce free radicals in the human body. While Oxygen is essential for all living organisms, in certain conditions and amounts it becomes lethal and destroys the cell tissues in the human body.
What are Free Radicals then? These are molecules that are often unstable and highly reactive (like some people we know), giving them the ability to damage the cells in the body. This damage leads to various health problems and aging. Free radicals often occur as a result of normal metabolic processes or external sources such as exposure to radioactive material, industrial affluents, cigarette smoking, air pollutants, etc.
Alright, what about Antioxidants? These are natural occurring compounds in the human body that inhibit Oxidation. They remove potentially damaging oxidizing agents in a living organism.
A balance between free radicals and antioxidants is necessary for proper physiological function. If free radicals overwhelm the body’s ability to regulate them, we become sick. When this balance is lost, the situation can be rectified by introducing external antioxidants to the immune system.
Antioxidants delay or inhibit cellular damage mainly through their free radical scavenging property. They can safely interact with free radicals and terminate the oxidation process before vital molecules are damaged. Hence the name “anti-oxidant” or “anti-oxidation” to depict the reversal or corrective process.
The human body naturally develops antioxidants but in some cases it cannot manufacture these micronutrients, so they must be supplied in the diet by consuming foods rich in them or over-the-counter diet supplements.
Antioxidants are classified according to whether or not they are produced by enzymes. There are two main classes namely; Enzymatic and NonEnzymatic. The Enzymatic antioxidants work by breaking down and removing free radicals while the Non-enzymatic antioxidants work by interrupting free radical chain reactions.
In conclusion, each antioxidant serves a different function and is not interchangeable with another. It is important to have a varied diet with immune boosting foods and plants to aid in disease prevention.