What are antioxidants?

The name itself implies that anti oxidants are substances that have the capacity to counter the natural process of oxidation of animal tissues. Antioxidants can be nutrients in the likes of vitamins and minerals; they can also come in the form of enzymes. Enzymes are special type of proteins which assist in the various chemical reactions inside our body. It is believed that these substances have the capacity to prevent various diseases like heart diseases, cancer, cataract, rheumatoid arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease and stroke.

The process of oxidative stress occurs when the amount of free radicals in our body is in excess amount and goes beyond the counter effect of the antioxidants. Free radicals can be defined as electrically charge particles; they develop a negative or positive charge due to the excess of deficit of electrons.

There are a number of free radicals like ozone, hydroxyl anion, superoxide anion and transition elements like copper and iron. The most biologically reactive free radicals are reactive oxygen species also known as ROS. They contain oxygen in them. Hydroxyl radical and superoxide radical come under the category of ROS or reactive oxygen species. They also contain the derivatives of oxygen that do not have the unpaired electron pair in them, namely singlet oxygen, hypochlorous acid and hydrogen.

Free radicals are highly unstable because they have one or more than one unpaired electrons. They have the tendency to attack our body in order to accept or donate electrons. This chemical reaction damages the bodyProteins, cells and DNA’s.
Some visible effects of oxidative reactions can be seen in apples, rusting of iron and oils turning rancid.

The damage from free radicals are impossible to contain since they occur naturally. Free radicals can come from both endogenous and exogenous sources thy arise inside our body as well as come from the outside. Aerobic respiration, inflammation and metabolism are the processes which give rise to the free radicals inside the body. Smoking, alcohol, pollution, sunlight, strenuous exercise and X-rays are the external sources which give rise to free radicals.