by Vijay Petwal


Antioxidants are one of the hottest topics in the world related to health and nutrition. They are found in a lot of things such as Vitamin A, C, E, and Bioflavenoids. To find out what antioxidants are, we need to first understand the concept of free radicals.

What are Free Radicals?

Free radicals are a form of oxygen that can harm our bodies including cells. They are caused by numerous factors such as foods we eat, the water we drink, and the air we breathe. Other factors that contribute to the creation of free radicals in our body are radiation, tobacco smoke, air pollution, and even physical exercise.

These free radical cells are very unstable and they attack healthy cells to replace missing electrons. The damage in the body ranges from attacking the DNA that regenerates our body to impairing cell membranes. These free radicals multiply in free-radical chain reactions, and it breaks down the cell's enzymes, fats, and proteins. Any damage in the immune system, could lead to colds and infections.

What is the Role of Antioxidants?

The role of antioxidants is to neutralize free radicals. Antioxidant molecules have the ability to lose electrons without forming a chain reaction. Antioxidants react easily with oxygen and protects the other neighboring cells from damaging reactions with oxygen. They quench free radicals and promote healthy cells.

Without antioxidant protection from free radicals you age faster, develop stiff joints and wrinkle your skin sooner. Some diseases associated with aging such as arthritis, circulatory disorders, heart disease, and diabetes can also be caused by free radicals.

Antioxidants that Protect Our Cells:

  • Vitamin C -- Shaklee Vitamin C releases high potency essential vitamin C continuously.
  • Vitamin E -- Derived from soybean oil.
  • Vitamin A (Beta Carotene) -- Made from organic Pro-Algantene, a carotene-rich algae concentrate. Clinically proven to be better than carrots at raising beta carotene levels in the blood.

Article on Antioxidant Activity of Herbs :

Researchers B. Halliwell, et al., from the University of London King's College and Nestec Research Centre in Lausanne, Switzerland present a detailed description of "the characterization of antioxidants" in a recent paper published in Food Chemicals Toxicology. The article is from the perspective of a food industry, and the authors point out that the antioxidants "protect the human body against damage by reactive oxygen species (ROS)." "The relative importance of various antioxidants in vivo depends on which ROS is generated, how it is generated, where it is generated, and what target of damage is being measured." Antioxidants can be very specific. Cigarette smoke causes lipid peroxidation in blood. Vitamin C inhibits this damage by cigarette smoke to blood lipids, but not cigarette smoke damage to proteins. Some antioxidants inhibit the ROS formation, while others bind with and inactivate them.

Most of the major herbs used today have good antioxidant effects. Ginkgo makes the blood cells and blood vessels more flexible by reducing oxidation of the cell walls. Bilberry, an antioxidant for the eyes, shows identical effects on microcirculation as ginkgo. Milk thistle protects liver cells from damage by toxins. "Grape seed extract, pine bark extract, reishi mushrooms, ginger, ginseng, and garlic all have antioxidant effects as do the major active phytochemicals in vegetables and fruits: broccoli, tomatoes, carrots, berries, melons, etc."

[Halliwell, B., Aeschbach, R., Loliger, J., and Aruoma, O.I. "The Characterization of Antioxidants." Food Chemical Toxicology, 33:7, 601-617, 1995.]

Article on Antioxidant Protection from Echinacea:

Alarming increases in skin cancers are being found through increasing solar radiation. Photodamage is the oxidative damage to the skin caused by UV radiation. Scientists in Italy invented a protective effect of polyphenols from echinacea against free radical damage. Echinacea can be used for the prevention and treatment of photodamage of the skin. Collagen, the main connective tissue of the skin and extremely sensitive to UV damage, loses its contractile properties when damaged. This results in skin wrinkling and roughness. Echinacoside and a class of specific antioxidants known as caffeoyl derivatives are the focus of current study. The authors comment: "The results of this study, strongly support the view that extracts from echinacea species can be used for the prevention of skin photodamage, and since the commonly used echinacea extracts local concentrations of the compounds might be obtained by topical application."

[Facino, R.M., M.Carini, G.Aldini, L.Saibene, P.Pietta, and P.Mauri. 1995. Echinacoside and caffeoyl conjugates protect collagen from free radical-induced degradation: a potential use of Echinacea extracts in the prevention of skin photodamage. Planta Med. 61: 510-514.]

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