In the most scientific of understandings, the body runs on a series of daily, complex, chemical reactions. Your stomach breaks down food. This is used by the various organs to power cellular regeneration. If you think back to high school days, this process occurs in the mitochondria in a series of complex chemical reactions able to occur because of enzymes, a protein or a protinaceous substance.
Unlike ordinary chemical catalysts, enzymes characteristically catalyze a reaction that would not normally occur under such mild conditions, temperature, and pressure. The mitochondria essentially serve as the power plant of the cell, utilizing oxygen and nutrients to generate the energy that is critical to cellular functions.
As a byproduct to this key process, known as oxidative metabolism, the mitochondria produce potentially damaging reactive oxygen species. Oxygen molecules are generally found in pairs and with a full set of outer electrons are strongly bond together. However, this species has a weak set of bonds, which emits unstable free electron particles, or Free Radicals.
In an attempt to gain stability, free radicals react quickly with surrounding compounds, often "stealing" an electron from the nearest stable molecule. As this displaces the electron of the attacked molecule becomes a free radical starting a process which can cascade to the fatal disruption and damage to a living cell.
In some cases, the immune system will purposefully create Free Radicals to neutralize virus and bacteria. However, in many cases it results in the interruption of important chemical processes or damage to DNA, Lipids, or Proteins. Environmental factors can also unnecessarily instigate this process. Pollution, radiation, cigarette smoke, EMS exposure, and herbicides - to name a few - will all cause unhealthy Free Radicals production. Moreover, poor diet and health will result in this type of cellular damage.
Collectively, this daily, cellular-level damage to cells is called Aging. The body is set up to handle free radical damage and it is not fatal in most cases. However, free radicals have been cited as casual contributors to a number of age-related, degenerative diseases and disorders. Given that many of these related disorders tend to occur later in life, it is not surprising, that natural build up that occurs over time wears down the body's ability to handle free radicals.
In the most basic sense, AntiOxidants stop this oxidative process. As stable protein compounds, they donate an electron to free radicals, thereby ending the destructive reaction of electron "stealing". They are naturally produced living organisms. The body produces a variety of Antioxidants to maintain healthy systems and defray cellular destruction.
Because Antioxidants stop this damaging process, supplements and foods containing them are often termed "anti-aging". Indeed, both naturally occurring and synthetic AntiOxidants have been used for decades as food additives. All are necessary, with many working together or become effective when shortages of others exist. But keep in mind, AntiOxidants are like building blocks to a healthy body. Hormones are the messengers. If the messengers are non-existent or close to it, all the supplementation in the world may not show any benefits.
Vitamin C , also called ascorbic acid, the most abundant of water soluble antioxidants, acts primarily in cellular fluid. Vitamin C is important to the body's biosynthesis of collagen, catecholamine and carnitine and is integral to proper formation of proteins, neurotransmitters, hormones, DNA and RNA in the body. It also functions to help activate vitamin E. Although there is somewhat limited documentation, other reported uses of vitamin C are healing wounds and burns, accelerate healing after surgery, decreasing blood cholesterol, reduce blood clotting, offer protection against cancer agents, and extend life. Many of these reputed uses are highly speculative and lack the proper scientific verification.
Vitamin E , the most abundant of the fat soluble AntiOxidants. You may also hear this referred to as Tocopherols, Tocotrienals, or Tocos. All of these are generally derived from plant oils. While studies are somewhat inconclusive, Vitamin E is thought to protect against cardiovascular disease by defending against LDL oxidation and artery-clogging plaque formation.
Vitamin A comes from a group of Caratonoid AntiOxidants and is found in Carrots, Yams, leafy green vegetables, Palm Oil and cantaloupe to name a few. Common Caratonoid names used in supplements are Alpha and Beta Carotene. Vitamin A is primarily cited as improving maintaining vision and skin. On-going studies on Vitamin A include work on Skin Cancer and Macular Degeneration.
Vitamin B There are a variety of numbered Vitamin B's that serve to protect proper functioning of the blood and neurological systems. Each is important and necessary to support health and lack of B Vitamins causes a number of very serious, unpleasant maladies. A variety of Vitamin B's can be found in most foods. The list of sources for each type is quite extensive as it spans the four major food groups. However, absorption can be greatly affected by alcohol use.
SuperOxide Dismutase (SOD)is one of the most powerful AntiOxidant enzymes in the body. SOD directly attacks the destructive SuperOxide Molucule. It is an immune system AntiOxidant found immediately in mitochondria. It is one of the few AntiOxidants that can penetrate the cell wall to stop some of the most damaging radical activity. SOD is highly susceptible to stomach acid making oral ingestion less appealing a delivery mechanism. Manganese, Copper, and Zinc are important to proper functioning of SOD.
Several studies conducted by researchers in Malaysia discovered that Longjack is rich in Superoxide Dimutase, a kind of AntiOxidant enzyme that has the ability to inhibit the chain reaction of free radicals are harmful in the body and result in aging.
Researchers writing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reported that the antioxidant supplementation could stem the progress of retinitis pigmentosa, a group of eye diseases that entail the death of rods and cones and can eventually lead to vision loss.
Using laboratory mice as subjects, the researchers selected a mixture of antioxidants to try to maximize protection against oxidative damage: alphatocopherol (200mg/kg), ascorbic acid (250 mg/kg) Mn (III) tetrakis (4-benzoic acid) porphyrin (10 mg/kg), and alpha lipoic acid (100 mg/kg). They found the treatment markedly reduced oxidative damage in cones; this was accomplished by a two fold increase in cone cell density and a 50 percent increase in medium wavelength cone posing mRNA. Antioxidant supplementation also resulted in some preservation of cone function.
“These data support the hypothesis that gradual cone cell death after rod cell death in RP is due to oxidative damage, and that antioxidant therapy may provide benefit,” the researchers concluded.