Antioxidants and Aging
How do Antioxidants Slow Aging?
Antioxidants neutralize free radicals, which damage cells, clog arteries and contribute to chronic illness and aging. Antioxidants are found in leafy vegetables, fruits, wine, and chocolate. Antioxidants can also be found in certain vitamins and minerals such as vitamins A, C and E, zinc and selenium.
Can Antioxidants Slow Down The Aging Process?
Whether you know it or not, your body is being constantly attacked by very harmful substances known as free radicals. You can not see them, smell them or touch them, but they are always there, trying to destroy your cells, tissues and organs.
Free radicals are highly unstable molecules that are generated mainly during the process of oxidation; the very process that produces the energy necessary to stay alive. They also come from outside sources, such as environmental pollution, smoking and various synthetic chemicals that are added to our water and food.
Free radicals are chemically unstable because they lack one electron. In order to stabilize themselves, they attack any other substance within their reach and grab an electron from them. This, of course, creates a new free radical, which proceeds to repeat the process, producing a "domino effect." When this reaction is uncontrolled, it can generate millions of free radicals within seconds.
These chemicals damage key enzymes, cell membranes and even the chromosomes that store our genetic material (DNA). Free radicals have been implicated in most known diseases of mankind, but especially in the chronic, degenerative diseases associated with the aging process. According to The New York Times, free radicals can be linked to over 60 diseases, including diabetes, heart disease and arthritis. They can cause severe reduction in cell function and even the death of a cell. In some cases, when the DNA has been damaged beyond repair, it can even lead to cancer.
Can this Process be Stopped?
Fortunately, we have a "built-in" free radical fighting mechanism also known as the antioxidant defense system. It consists of specialized enzymes that have a "spare" electron that they can give away without turning into free radicals. In order to protect us, however, the enzymes need help from certain substances known as antioxidants.
Antioxidants are natural free radical fighters. They also have a spare electron which they can give away to make free radicals harmless. They work by protecting the components of our antioxidant system. Common antioxidants include vitamins C, E, beta carotene, bioflavonoids, zinc, selenium and alpha lipoic acid.