Oxidative Stress, Antioxidants, and Your Immune System
One of the most common claims made about antioxidants is that they prevent cancer. Antioxidants do have this property. What they do is stop the chain reaction that occurs when molecules with oxygen to break down complex chemical compounds called Free Radicals (FR) inside our bodies. Antioxidants like Vitamin E and C are considered “antioxidants”. In fact, all living organisms are constantly fighting off FRs and many have died as a result. So it is no surprise that antioxidants are used in skin care products.
As we grow older, our bodies produce fewer antioxidants. If we are exposed to toxins or chemicals, our bodies cannot fight these attacks and our immune system becomes compromised. One way to maintain healthy immune systems is to eat healthy foods, including fruits and vegetables, and take antioxidant supplements. Fruits and vegetables are rich in antioxidants.
Two types of antioxidants that are important for overall health include vitamins A, C and E and selenium. When our body is exposed to radiation, our skin will become damaged because the outer layer becomes thicker than the inner layer. This thickening causes premature aging of the skin. Fruits and vegetables help to prevent this by reducing the buildup of free radicals, which is what causes cellular aging. Antioxidants also help to protect our cardiovascular system from cardiovascular disease.
There are four classes of antioxidants. They are the anthocyanins, flavonoids, procyanidins, and proanthocyanidins. Antioxidants work on FRs by stopping chemical reactions that cause them to form. Some examples of such chemical reactions include electron transfer reactions, peroxidation, and oxidation. Most vegetables contain anthocyanin pigments that make them good for providing us with vitamin E. But contrary to popular belief, fruits do not contain vitamin E. Green tea is the only vegetable that provides us with vitamin E. Fruits and vegetables also contain other antioxidants such as riboflavin, selenium, lycopene, and beta carotene.
Although the role of antioxidants is still being researched extensively, most health experts believe that oxidative stress caused by environmental factors and free radical molecules increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. The best way to counter oxidative stress and its associated health problems is to use antioxidants in our daily diet. There are many antioxidant supplements on the market to help provide adequate levels of these substances for optimal health.
It is believed that antioxidants may help prevent cancer, cardiovascular disease and premature aging. They also reduce the damage caused by free radical molecules. However, researchers have yet to determine if antioxidants can prevent or reverse cancer. Studies have shown, however, that antioxidants can help reduce the symptoms of inflammatory diseases such as arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.