In His divine wisdom, God equipped our bodies with a very efficient system to protect us against destructive free radicals. This system, or network, is composed of many parts that work more efficiently together than alone. In fact, most antioxidants when used alone can actually become free radicals themselves.
First, let us see how antioxidants work to neutralize these damaging particles. Chemically, a free radical is a particle possessing an unpaired electron in its outer orbital. To the non-scientist this means nothing. In nature, electrons always prefer to come in pairs. If they don't, they will steal an electron from whatever is close by. This process of stealing electrons is called oxidation. When free radicals are loosed in a cell, the unpaired electron begins to steal electrons from surrounding DNA molecules, proteins, and lipids within the membranes, as I discussed earlier.
Antioxidants work by supplying electrons to free radicals, thus sparing the cell's vital components. In the process, an antioxidant becomes a free radical itself, not as powerful as the free radical it neutralized, but still a mildly destructive chemical. This means that the antioxidant needs to be regenerated; it does this by borrowing an electron from another antioxidant. For example, vitamin C will regenerate vitamin E and vice versa. This is why our diets should supply fresh antioxidants, so that the renewal process can continue. There are special antioxidants, such as alpha-lipoic acid, that can constantly renew the antioxidant status of other antioxidants without being renewed itself. Special chemicals in fruits, vegetables, and herbs called flavonoids, have been found to be very powerful and versatile free-radical antioxidants, and can also renew the antioxidant status of several of the vitamins.
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