Antioxidants Simplified

Radicals are always the dreaded lot in our society because they have extreme ways of settling scores. This post is,however, not about these radicals, but about their biological equivalents which are produced in our body. Yes,to be sure,they are indeed produced in our system and are equally harmful to our health and well being. In fact to say they are harmful is an understatement because under worst conditions they are the cause of deadly diseases like cancer or heart attack. However,to our great relief,our biological system has a unique and a rather wonderful antidote to fight the ill effects of the Radicals. And as you might have guessed, the antidote is none other than the famous ANTIOXIDANTS. Antioxidants are one of the fascinating molecules that nature has created as part of a grand survival strategy for all living beings. What exactly are they? Let me try to explain the phenomenon and its relevance to our daily life in simple terms.
It is a highly fascinating class of chemicals which nature has provided as an amazing antidote to major life threatening deseases like cancer, heart attack etc. To understand what an anti-oxidant does we need to understand what oxidation is to start with. Oxidation is the mechanism by which cells convert carbohydrates to energy through our natural process of respiration. As any biology student will tell you,the MITOCHONDRIA in our cells is indeed the power centre which produces the energy we need for our day to day life through a chemical process known as Oxidation. While oxidation is the major chemical reaction responsible for producing energy,under certain conditions oxidation reactions can result in side reactions which lead to the formation of harmful FREE RADICALS. (It is possible that chemists borrowed this term from political scientists in view of their similarity in their effects). Why are they harmful? Because they can damage healthy cells or even the DNA. As I said FREE RADICALS are formed under certain conditions. One of the favourable conditions for their formation is Prolonged Stress. I am sure one can now clearly see the connection between good health and stress free life.
It is heartening to note that our cells are provided with Master ANTIOXIDANTS in the cell itself. And very cleverly they are located at the very door step of the MITOCHONDRIA itself where oxidation reactions take place. Isn’t it a great Fine tuning by the ORIGINAL DESIGNER of life? These antioxidants simply capture the FREE RADICALS and either scavenge them or convert them into harmless chemicals. One such antioxidant system is a protein called GLUTATHIONE(abbreviated technically as
GSH). Besides functioning as an antioxidant,it also regulates the activity of other well known antioxidants like Vitamin E and Vitamin C.
Obviously it needs to be replenished as we keep consuming the same in our system. It is made from an important sulfur containing amino acid known as CYSTEIN which is available in ONIONS,GARLIC,BROCOLLI,SPROUTS,OATS, RED PEPPER, WHEY PROTEIN ETC. It is also synthesized from proteins present in human hair.

In view of the vital role played by antioxidants,it is imperative to consciously consume foods rich in the important amino acid CYSTEIN in addition to VItamin E and Vitamin C.

Published in: on October 17, 2010 at 2:57 pm  Comments (1)