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The Role of Antioxidant Nutrients

by Lynda France -

Generally, when we are discussing antioxidants we are referring to vitamins A (perhaps in the form of beta carotene) E and C, selenium and zinc. There are others that have less salient roles as antioxidants.

An antioxidant is a compound that protects other compounds from oxidation by donating an electron to another substance and thereby being oxidized itself. In doing this it does not become unstable (a free radical) as it is stable in either form. This oxidative damage has been linked to many of the diseases we associate with aging, i.e., cancers, arthritis, cataracts and heart disease. Scientist speculate that as we age our defense system become increasingly less efficient in controlling damage done by free radicals.

It would seem beta carotene and vitamin E protect the body from damage done to the lipids. This protection decreases risk of certain types of cancers by protecting damage done do to cellular DNA. Heart disease is also decreased by inhibiting oxidative damage to LDL and polyunsaturated fatty acids of the cell membranes. In fact, studies show that supplementation with E and C eliminates free radical damage within the arterial walls. It would also seem that in addition to working synergistically with vitamin E in protecting oxidation in the arteries, vitamin C also protects the body's watery components, such as the fluid of the blood. A primary success for vitamin C is in neutralizing free radical damage from cigarette smoke and polluted air. Lastly, it also restores oxidative vitamin E to its active state.

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