Antioxidants Neutralize Free Radicals

I have heard the term antioxidant many times; however, I did not really understand what antioxidants were and how they contributed to health until I looked into it. It is actually a fairly complicated topic. Both a basic understanding of chemistry and biology are needed understand antioxidants. [1]

There are many different types of cells within the human body. Within cells thousands of biochemical reactions interact to maintain the life of the cell. Cellular respiration is the set of metabolic reactions and processes that result in the creation of energy a cell can utilize[2]. This process requires oxygen to convert energy from nutrients to ATP, Adenosine-5′-triphosphate. ATP molecules provide the energy on which all cells in your body operate. Understanding the details of cellular respiration is not necessary. It comes down to a simple fact oxygen is essential to the biochemical reactions that create the energy cells utilize. Hence, our need to breath every day, all day, until our last day. [3]

The bad news is that the ordinary oxygen molecule, O2,turns into oxidizing agents during normal cellular metabolism.  The most important reactive oxygen species are superoxide ion (·O2), hydroxyl (·OH), and hydrogen peroxide (H2O2). These oxidizing agents are short an electron; they are free radicals.[4] Atoms consist of electrons, protons and neutrons. The number of protons (positively charged particles) in the atom’s nucleus determines the number of electrons (negatively charged particles) surrounding the nucleus. Electrons orbit an atom in one or more shells. The innermost shell is full when it has two electrons. When the first shell is full, electrons begin to fill the second shell. When the second shell is full it has eight electrons, and so on. [5]

The outermost shell is the most important feature of an atom for determining its chemical behavior. An atom with a full outer shell is stable and thus tends not to enter in chemical reactions. On the other hand an atom that does not have a full outer shell will seek to reach a state of maximum stability by one of the following actions: Gaining an electron, losing an electron, or sharing its electrons by bonding together with other atoms in order to complete its outer shell. A molecule is formed when atoms are bound together through sharing electrons and thus satisfying the conditions of maximum stability.[6]

A free radical is an atom or molecule with unpaired electron(s). A free radical is unstable and highly reactive. Free radicals attack the nearest stable molecule, “stealing” its electron. When the “attacked” molecule loses its electron, it becomes a free radical itself, beginning a chain reaction. Once the process is started, it can cascade, resulting in the disruption of a living cell. Antioxidants neutralize free radicals by donating one of their own electrons, ending the electron “stealing” reaction.[7]

Checkout: Free Radicals & Antioxidants

Under normal circumstances, there is a balance between the rate at which free radicals are produced and the rate at which they are eliminated by the action of antioxidants.[8] Oxidative stress occurs when a biological system is unable to readily neutralize free radicals. These un-neutralized free radicals damage all components of the cell. Oxidative stress is thought to contribute to the development of a wide range of diseases  including diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and neurodegeneration in motor neuron diseases. [9] The human brain is at particular high risk by free radicals because of its high degree of metabolism compared to other tissues.[10]

That is all for now. In my next blog post I continue this discussion. Thank you to all of you who have been reading my blog postings. Special thanks to those who have passed along my blog to others. There is a word press report that shows me the number of readers each day. Since my last blog posting there have been over 300 readers!!! It pleases me no end to see the number of readers growing. Thank you. If you have an suggestions for topics you would like to see discussed please let me know though a comment.  


~ by happydeviant on March 13, 2011.

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