Antioxidants and Free Radicals – Effects on the Body

Antioxidants are important for health. Antioxidants prevent free radicals from causing damage and antioxidants help prevent unwanted oxidation in our body. Physical aging, damage to the skin and connective tissues appear to be the result of free radicals. Antioxidants can slow down aging. Antioxidants are found in certain foods (including garlic, broccoli, herbs) and in supplements (including Omega fatty acids, vitamins A, B6, C, E, taurine, minerals such as zinc and selenium).

Oxidation and oxygen: biological processes

Oxygen plays a double role in all biological processes. On the one hand, it is an indispensable element for life. On the other hand, oxygen is responsible for almost all degradation processes. To illustrate this, the following examples:

  • Iron from a rusted nail has combined with oxygen; the nail oxidizes and deteriorates in quality.
  • Burning a piece of wood is a connection between wood and oxygen, creating heat (fire) and decomposition (ash).


Desired and undesirable oxidation

The combustion of nutrients in our body cells is a breakdown process of nutrients, which requires oxygen and produces energy (heat). There is then desired oxidation. For example, the rusting of a nail is unwanted oxidation. In addition to oxygen, there are numerous other elements with oxidative properties. It is important that unwanted oxidation processes are avoided as much as possible. Undesirable oxidation of fatty acids in our body, for example, not only causes the breakdown of fatty acids, but also creates free radicals.

Free radicals

Free radicals are small, highly active, aggressive particles that can cause a lot of damage. These harmful particles are created during all desired and undesirable oxidation processes in our body. The formation of free radicals in our body can be the result of:

  • Normal cell division.
  • The immune system.
  • The detoxification system.

From the outside, our body is exposed to free radicals due to radiation, air pollution, synthetic additives in food, physical overload, stress, heavy metals, etc.

Consequences of free radicals

Physical aging is basically a result of free radical damage. The fact that our skin becomes less elastic is a result of free radical damage to the skin and connective tissues. It can be compared to a rubber band that becomes crumbly and decays when left in the sun. Various studies have shown that aging appears to be partly the result of excessive free radical activity. People who smoke and have been exposed to the sun are more likely to develop wrinkles due to a higher amount of harmful free radicals. Other conditions, such as rheumatism, cardiovascular disease, tumors, pigment spots and cataracts, also appear to be partly attributable to damage caused by free radicals or excessive free radical activity.

Free radicals and oxidation

Our body defends itself against excessive stress from free radicals in two ways.

  • On the one hand, the body has free radical scavengers. These are enzymes that our body produces to bind free radicals and thereby render them harmless (e.g. catalase, glutathione and SOD = super oxide dismutase).
  • On the other hand, the body can have antioxidants. These are substances that occur in our diet and can prevent unwanted oxidation and therefore unwanted free radical formation. Some of these nutritional factors have free radical scavenging properties.



Antioxidants found in foods include:

  • Garlic.
  • Pine bark.
  • Broccoli.


Avoidance of free radicals

You can avoid a surplus of free radicals by minimizing:

  • Radiation (excessive sunlight, tanning bed, radioactivity, etc.)
  • Air pollution and tobacco smoke.
  • Foreign substances in food (synthetic dyes, heavy metals)
  • Stress (physical and mental).
  • Oxidation of food by ensuring sufficient antioxidants.
  • Using inadequate nutrition.


Antioxidants in supplements

It may be advisable to use an antioxidant complex in addition to diet. An antioxidant does not stand alone; Only in combination with other antioxidants and additives does protection against free radicals occur. Many brands have compositions or complexes of the substances below.

  • Vitamin C: antioxidant and heavy metal detoxifier.
  • Vitamin E: prevents cell damage by protecting fatty acids against oxidation: free radical scavenger .
  • Beta-carotene: antioxidant and free radical scavenger, protects against (UV) radiation.
  • Vitamin A: protects cell membrane and mucous membranes.
  • Glutathione: important factor against radical burden.
  • Vitamin B 6: active in more than 50 enzymatic reactions.
  • Vitamin B2: helps reduce glutathione.
  • Copper: captures radicals in all cells of the body.
  • Manganese: less produced as we get older.
  • Selenium and zinc: help against free radicals.
  • Taurine: amino acid and strong antioxidant (including chlorine radicals and cholesterol).
  • Herbs: Green Tea Extract, Ginkgo Biloba, Milk Thistle, Asiatic Pennywort
  • Bioflavonoids (also called vitamin P)


Bioflavonoids as antioxidants

Bioflavonoids are plant substances that play a role in preventing cardiovascular disease and maintaining healthy blood vessel walls. They protect and strengthen the blood vessel walls and reduce high cholesterol levels in the blood. Bioflavonoids increase the effect of vitamin C in the body. In nature, vitamin C always occurs in combination with bioflavonoids (e.g. citrus fruits). Bioflavonoids are useful for many problems, including varicose veins, open legs, hemorrhoids and sports injuries. They can also prevent abnormal blood clotting, reduce inflammation and help prevent cataracts.
For more information, nutrients and supplements you can always contact the drugstore, ‘green’ pharmacy, health food store or naturopathic therapist. Nowadays you can also order all kinds of vitamins online or in vitamin stores/shops.
Supplements are available in many different brands such as: Biodynamics, AOV, Orthica, VitOrtho, KernGezond, Nutramin, Now, Herbalife, Pharmafood etc.

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