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How Do Antioxidants Help Keep You Healthy?

Updated on March 22, 2013
Dark chocolate is a food rich in antioxidants.
Dark chocolate is a food rich in antioxidants. | Source

Oxidative Stress in the Body

When your body digests food or performs normal cellular functions, reactive chemical compounds called free radicals are produced. Free radicals may also come from exposing your body to sunlight, tobacco smoke or environmental pollutants. These free radicals can cause harm to your body's proteins, DNA, cell membranes or other important tissues. Antioxidants are compounds that can neutralize free radicals thus preventing the free radicals from bringing about their harmful effects. Antioxidants are produced by your body or are taken in when you consume certain foods. Your body is under oxidative stress any time the number of free radicals present exceeds the number of antioxidant compounds capable of neutralizing the harmful free radicals.

How Does Oxidative Stress Harm Your Body?

Many scientists believe that oxidative stress may be a factor in diseases such as cancer, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis. For example, in April 2006, a website that summarizes research results reported in scientific journals, published an article that discussed how Parkinson's disease that is not inherited may arise from oxidative stress-induced damage to a certain protein in the body. In addition, researchers writing in the January 2003 issue of the "Journal of Biochemical and Molecular Toxicology" reported that oxidative stress manifested as insulin resistance may play a role in the development of type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Insulin resistance means that the insulin you have in your body has a diminished ability to remove glucose from the blood relative to its ability under normal circumstances.

Some Important Antioxidants

Glutathione is the most prominent antioxidant produced by the body, and it occurs in every one of the body's cells. It protects the genes, mitochondria or cell powerhouse and other important cellular components from damage caused by reactive free radicals. Glutathione also serves to regenerate the radical-neutralizing capability of exogenous antioxidants such as vitamins C and E. Exogenous antioxidants are those which you ingest as dietary supplements or as components of various foods. All antioxidants need regeneration because they are inactivated after they neutralize reactive free radicals. Another exogenous antioxidant which has been the subject of intense scientific research over the last ten years is resveratrol. Reseveratrol is a chemical found mainly in grapes and red wine, and scientists believe that it may offer protection from atherosclerosis and coronary heart disease. In a Janurary 2002 article in the "International Journal of Molecular Medicine," researchers found that resveratrol could inhibit blood platelets from sticking together in rabbits and in test tube experiments with platelets taken from human male volunteers. The ability of resveratrol to inhibit platelet aggregation helps to explain its potential cardioprotective benefits, but up to this point there is no human clinical trial data that would support the attribution of such benefits to resveratrol. Resveratrol and other antioxidants are sold as dietary supplements, but it is important that you check with your doctor about side effects and possible drug interactions before you take resveratrol or any other antioxidant supplement. You should also know that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not evaluate dietary supplements for safety and efficacy.


This hub has been written for the sole purpose of providing information to the reader. It is not intended to be a source of any kind of medical advice or instruction, and it should not be used the diagnosis of any illness, disease or condition. You should consult your doctor if you have questions about a specific medical problem.

Pomegranates and Antioxidants


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      healthwriterbob 6 years ago

      Hi proton66

      Thanks for your comments. Yes, I agree that your genes are ultimately the key to everything good and bad that happens to you. Living well and doing all the right things for your health are important and helpful, but your genes have a powerful say in the final outcome.

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      proton66 6 years ago from Southern California

      of course, using vitamins C & E are effective but activating one's own survival genes vigorously makes a huge difference. A good start is