What are Antioxidants?

September 19th, 2011 | Nutrition and Health

“Antioxidant” is a buzz word that gets thrown around a lot when talking about skin and bodily health. But what exactly is an antioxidant? A recent article about a new substance intended to fend off the damage caused by the ultraviolet rays gives a wonderful description of antioxidants and why they’re important for your skin.

Atoms, the basic unit of matter, are made up of a nucleus surrounded by a cloud of negatively charged electrons. Electrons are usually magnetically paired up with another electron, but when one doesn’t have a partner, it is called a free radical. These free radicals are quick to grab another electron to gain stability. Often, they attack the nearest molecule and steal its electron, creating another free radical and triggering a domino effect that, in the human body, can lead to cell damage.

So how does the sun play into this? The sun’s ultraviolet rays hit the skin and deliver enough energy to break up molecules and create free radicals. Atoms that lose an electron are said to be oxidized. This oxidation — the same chemical process that causes an apple to turn brown and a car fender to rust — initiates the skin damage process. Over time, it causes sunburns, wrinkles, blotches and potentially skin cancer.

But there is a hero: the antioxidant. Antioxidants are molecules that can donate an electron while remaining stable.*

*<source: http://www.timesunion.com/local/article/New-drug-s-promise-the-best-under-the-sun-2177276.php#ixzz1YPaDhWUz >

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