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Antioxidant Defense

We are exposed every moment of our lives to highly reactive and toxic molecules, called reactive oxygen species (ROS) or free radicals, that damage our bodies. From the moment we are conceived to the day we die, oxidation (chemical reactions involving oxygen) of critical proteins, lipids, nucleic acids and sugars
occurs in every cell in our bodies producing free radicals.

Over time oxidative stress from free radicals harm cellular membranes and genetic material (DNA) as well as damages critical proteins and lipids. This can cause organs to weaken, which in turn leads to accelerated aging and degenerative diseases.

Free radicals are a normal part of our inner environment and there are several sources of ROS. One such source of ROS occurs while burning glucose to generate energy. It is estimated that from 1-3% of all oxygen that we use to burn glucose is converted to free radicals in our bodies. Our immune system also produces many free radicals while fighting and destroying pathogens.

Lifestyle also affects our exposure to environmental agents that cause production of free radicals . For example, cigarette smoke contains many substances that dramatically increase free radicals and exposure to sunlight increases oxidation of the skin. On a daily basis we are inadvertently exposed to many environmental substances (car exhaust, pesticides, chemical solvents, house hold cleaners, and processed foods) that increase oxidation in the body.

Key Points to Consider

- Why are antioxidants important to health?
- What are the sources of free radicals in our body?
- What are the consequences of a free radical overload?
- What are the key antioxidant nutrients?

Antioxidants protect our bodies from free radicals. The body's defenses against oxidation and free radicals include several important enzymes that function as antioxidants. The major function of these antioxidant enzymes is to convert free radicals to non-toxic substances. These enzymes include super oxide dismutase (SOD), glutathione peroxidase and catalase. These antioxidant enzymes as well as antioxidant vitamins and minerals are also associated with effective removal of free radicals.

Important antioxidant nutrients come from our diet and from supplementation. Several vitamins (A, C, E, and beta carotene) are potent antioxidants that play a critical role in the protection of the body from oxidative stress and free radicals. As essential vitamins, there is a need for daily ingestion of these antioxidant to maintain life. Increased need and intake of antioxidants will depend on an individual's exposure to free radical sources.

The effective functioning of an antioxidant defense system to eliminate free radicals is critical to reducing the aging process and for the reduction of age related degenerative conditions.

Summary Of Key Points:

- Antioxidants protect us from the free radicals that are constantly being generated in our body and from our polluted environment.
- Free radical overload results in tissue destruction, reduced immune system function, and an increased risk for degenerative conditions.

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