The Invaluable Antioxidants
Every being utilizes oxygen to metabolize the nutrients absorbed so that energy can be produced.1 Oxygen mediates chemical reactions that metabolize carbohydrates, fats, and proteins to produce energy for survival. While it is one of the most essential components for life, oxygen does have certain drawbacks. This highly reactive atom can potentially damage molecules commonly known as "free radicals," known to attack the body's healthy cells.1
These attacks can lead to disease, ailments, and damage to the various systems of the body. Cell damage caused by free radicals may be a major component in aging and diseases such as cancer and heart disease, as well as loss of capacity to the immune system and brain function.1
Free radicals contain an unpaired electron. In order to create stability, they search for and capture electrons from other substances. This process forms a chain reaction whereby a multitude of free radical reactions may occur within a very short time period. Free radicals are a type of reactive oxygen species (ROS). Various ROS include hydrogen peroxide, the superoxide anion radical, nitric oxide radical, and various lipid peroxides.1
The term "oxidative stress" refers to an imbalance between pro-oxidants and antioxidant mechanisms, which culminates in excessive oxidative metabolism. Alcohol, medications, poor diet, and various environmental factors such as pollutants, toxins, and radiation may cause oxidative stress. This can result in damage to DNA, proteins, and other macromolecules and lead to ill health.1
Normally, antioxidants stabilize or deactivate free radicals before they attack cells. When antioxidants are lacking, free radical damage can accumulate and become debilitating. Foods that contain vitamins C and E, and beta-carotene are rich in antioxidants and have been extensively studied.1 Green tea (Camellia sinensis, Theaceae)2 and olive (Olea europaea, Oleaceae) oil3 have also been studied for their antioxidant properties and have been found beneficial.
1Percival M. Antioxidants. Clin Nutr Insights. 1998;31:1-4.
2Basu A, Betts NM, Mulugeta A, Tong C, Newman E, Lyons TJ. Green tea supplementation increases glutathione and plasma antioxidant capacity in adults with the metabolic syndrome. Nutr Res. 2013;33(3):180-187.3Oliveras-López MJ, Molina JJ, Mir MV, Rey EF, Martín F, de la Serrana HL. Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) consumption and antioxidant status in healthy institutionalized elderly humans. Arch Gerontol Geriatr. 2013;57(2):234-242.