Antioxidants are known for preventing certain diseases and are widely regarded as being beneficial for daily life. In essence, they protect cells in our bodies from molecules called ‘free radicals.’ It is these free radicals that cause damage to our cells which can cause serious diseases such as cancer to start taking hold in our bodies. Antioxidants and the effect they have on the body is a complex and detailed area of biology, but the main theme remains that they help protect the body against the unknown.
Free radicals are molecules that occur naturally in the body but are usually kept in control. Their production is increased by such things such as drinking alcohol, smoking, air pollution, excess sunlight, radiation, asbestos and infection. While oxygen is needed for us to live it is also required to build free radicals, particles become electrically charged and as a result attempt to steal electrons from the cells around it. This process is what causes cell damage.
Fruit and vegetables are high in antioxidants as well as a lot of natural and non-processed foods. Orange colored foods contain a type of antioxidant called beta carotene while lutein is normally found in green colored goods. Vitamins A, C and E are also known to have antioxidant properties and are found in a variety of foods from meats to eggs to natural oils.
The known and linked health benefits of antioxidants are fairly wide ranging. They are associated with helping to fight off cancer, however, the positive effects are much wider ranging.
First, they are known to help brain functions by keeping oxygen levels regular and prevent oxidative stress on brain neurons. High antioxidant levels can help prevent diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
Antioxidants are also linked with a good diet and a reduced chance of heart disease. Those who eat more fruit and vegetables are less prone to heart disease because of the high content of vitamins and minerals and naturally occurring antioxidants. Overall life expectancy is expected to be slightly higher although the science behind this is still being debated widely and has not conclusively been proven.
Cancer is a mutation of cells and antioxidants are linked with preventing these mutations by reducing the oxidative stress within the body. Oxidative stress is a term that is used to describe the stripping of electrically charged particles from your body’s DNA causing it to change. This in turn creates the mutation.
Antioxidants prevent molecules from becoming electrically charged and keep everything in balance. Studies on this topic have been carried out for many years on a variety of scales. Success is still mixed although most point to a positive impact on cancer prevention for those with higher than average antioxidant levels.
By helping to regulate the body and maintain a careful balance of oxygen, antioxidants have health benefits that help the entire body. They are commonly known for their cancer helping properties, but their use extends beyond their cancer protecting properties.