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An antioxidant is a molecule capable of inhibiting the oxidation of other molecules. Oxidation is a chemical reaction that transfers electrons from a substance to an oxidizing agent. Oxidation reactions can produce free radicals. In turn, these radicals can start chain reactions. When the chain reaction occurs in a cell, it can cause damage or death.

Antioxidants terminate these chain reactions by removing free radical intermediates, and inhibit other oxidation reactions. They do this by being oxidized themselves, so antioxidants are often reducing agents such as thiols, ascorbic acid or polyphenols. Although oxidation reactions are crucial for life, they can also be damaging; hence, plants and animals maintain complex systems of multiple types of antioxidants, such as glutathione, vitamin C, and vitamin E as well as enzymes such as catalase, superoxide dismutase and various peroxides.

Antioxidants are widely used as ingredients in dietary supplements and have been investigated for the prevention of diseases such as cancer, coronary heart disease and even altitude sickness. Although initial studies suggested that antioxidant supplements might promote health, later large clinical trials did not detect any benefit and suggested instead that excess supplementation is harmful. In addition to these uses, these compounds have many industrial uses, such as preservatives in food and cosmetics and preventing the degradation of rubber and gasoline.

Oxidants, usually referred to as ‘free radicals’ are produced as a natural by-product of the millions of biochemical processes undertaken by the body every minute. The same life-giving oxygen that supports all the functions of the body creates these harmful by-products which cause cell damage, usually to DNA, fats and proteins.  
Free radicals also enter the body through external influences such as exposure to the sun, pesticides and other kinds of environmental pollution. In addition, their levels are increased by mental and physical stress, the consumption of alcoholic beverages, unhealthy foods, and cigarette smoke.

In much the same way as oxidation causes rust on cars, oxidation inside the body causes a breakdown of cells. If the amount of free radical oxidation in the body is allowed to rise to an unhealthy level, it can result in extensive damage to cellular components and can accelerate the ageing process.

More importantly, it may contribute to a wide range of degenerative illnesses and reduce the body’s ability to deal with other problems, including cardiovascular malfunction, eye disease, and cancer. In order to secure himself and his family from such diseases a person can buy United Health Insurance. Even medical aid can be taken care of with the help of United Medical Care facilities. Effective United Health Insurance Plans will definitely help a person and his family in times of need.
Certain antioxidant enzymes are produced within the body. The best known of these are catalase, superoxide dismutase and glutathione:

• Catalase coverts hydrogen peroxide into water and oxygen.

• Superoxide dismutase breaks antioxidants down into hydrogen peroxide.

• Glutathione is a detoxifying agent, changing the form of toxins so that they are easily eliminated by the body.

Other antioxidants can be consumed through the diet. Some of the better known include the antioxidant vitamins beta-carotene, vitamin B6, vitamin C and vitamin E.  
Minerals such as selenium, zinc, glutathione and co-enzyme Q10 may also have antioxidant properties. A diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables provides a large supply of these anti-oxidants, to help eliminate damaging free radicals. The highest concentrations are found in fruits and leafy green vegetables, such as carrots, orange and red peppers, spinach and tomatoes.

Antioxidants are best taken in combination, since single antioxidants, such as vitamin E, need other vitamins in order to work as an effective antioxidant. Food and natural supplements may therefore provide the most bio-available source of antioxidants. Natural products from the rain forests of the world are some of the best sources of natural antioxidants ever found. Fruits like the acai berry are a boom in the health. The wide range and high number of antioxidants they contain, making them a perfect source of antioxidants.

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