Free Radicals and Antioxidants – not just a buzzword! – PART 1

 

Antioxidants are a trendy topic of conversation at the moment. It seems every trendy website, cafe and skincare brand are promoting the use of antioxidants for general health and well-being. But what are these mysterious little fellows? And how can they actually help us? To answer that, we need to first look at Free Radicals then go from there!

What are Free Radicals?

The Human body naturally goes through a process of Oxidization, whereby DNA is damaged by unstable molecules (Free Radicals). Antioxidants prevent some of the damage done by these free radicals or Oxidants (hence the anti- in anti oxidants!) Along with being naturally produced, these free radicals are also found in the environment, in the form of pollution, sun damage, cigarette smoke and alcohol.

Why does our body produce these ‘free radicals’? I thought they were bad?

Well, yes they are. Free radicals come about naturally as a result of our body turning food into energy, and the damage they can do is extensive. Essentially free radicals can change the structure of our DNA strands, potentially causing dangerous mutations which can lead to diseases like cancer. So yes, very bad, BUT we do need some oxidants in our system to ensure our antioxidant immune system works. Similar to if we take too many antibiotics, and our body can’t defend itself against resistant bacteria.

 

 

 

There are literally thousands of compounds which can come under the antioxidant banner. The most recognizable are vitamin E, vitamin C, beta-carotene, reserveratrol, retinol (co enzyme Q10), selenium and manganese. These Antioxidants support a host of bodily functions. Along with combating our free radicals, they also enhance the effectiveness of sunscreen in preventing skin damage. During the day, coupled with sunscreen (and proper skin coverage from a long sleeve shirt and a hat), antioxidants will give your skin proper defence against sun damage.

Tune in next week to find out where to find those ever important antioxidants!!