Breaking Down Food: Vitamins Explained


What Are Free Radicals and Antioxidants? Free radicals are harmful substances in the body that we may get from unhealthy living conditions or as byproducts of the energy-making process. Even though they can be made in the body, they can be harmful to the body. They may cause anything from brain decline to cancer. Fortunately, antioxidants help to prevent the effects of free radicals. “Antioxidant” however, is more of a blanket term — each form of antioxidants has a specific job. Vitamins C and E and beta-carotene (vitamin A) are considered antioxidants. We hear this word a lot, especially in ads for products like green tea. Although antioxidants are often advertised as a way to prevent cancer, clinical trials have produced insufficient evidence to say this is true.

How Do They Work? Even though they’re called “anti”-oxidants, that’s a bit of a misnomer — antioxidants serve more as a neutralizer. Put simply, free radicals are molecules that have a free electron while antioxidants are stable molecules that can then lend an electron to a free radical, neutralizing it and reducing the damage it can do.

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Review Date: 
January 15, 2015

Last Updated:
January 15, 2015