Just what is an antioxidant?

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When I think of the countless buzzwords that get thrown around the fitness, health and wellness world, the one that seems to reoccur with frequency is "antioxidant."

If one were to conclude that this term bombarding the airwaves with regular frequency is a good thing, they would be right. Understanding how antioxidants work, why they work, and better yet, what they do for us can significantly change the way we approach food, and appreciate how powerful the synergy of certain foods can be in our body.

To translate the term "antioxidant" literally would include breaking its name into two distinct parts. "Anti," meaning "against," and "oxidant," or oxidation, which is a process by which unstable electrons are fractured from their regular orbit around healthy molecules and instead begin attacking healthy cells. This release of "free radicals" can create a chain reaction continuing to upset or bombard the stable electron "orbit" of other healthy cells, ultimately damaging or terminating them. Fortunately, one of the miracles of the human body is its ability to create new cells.

To the rescue arrive the antioxidants which, in essence, consume or neutralize these free radicals and stop the cell destruction process occurring in the body.

Supplements?

Oxidation in the human body is significant because it is responsible for many different diseases, the aging process and general health. The causes of oxidation are a result of pollutants, mental stress, sunburns, poor dietary choices and environmental hazards. These events initiate the process of cells dying and ultimately making the body more vulnerable to disease and degeneration.

It is important to mention that oxidation is not only a result of external events, but is also a product of respiration, metabolism and inflammation, which are unavoidable.

While the normal reaction of those wishing to pursue good health would be to grab every antioxidant supplement they can get their hands on, current research has been inconclusive about the consumption of specific antioxidant supplements and their benefit if consumed purely for the purpose of lessening cell destruction.

Research does, however, support that the synergy of the phytonutrients (the combination of all the nutrients in a given food working together) in food, which also includes antioxidants, as being one of the best ways to keep a body in optimal health.

Science has entertained a number of reasons that specific antioxidant studies have proven inconclusive, including the fact that other chemicals and compounds in antioxidant-rich foods might be required to maximize their efficiency. Another reason for skewed results are that if taken in too high a dose, specific antioxidants become toxic to the body and create the same kind of oxidation instability that they are trying to prevent.

The "take-away" should be the information that now has come full circle. Eating a diet of nonfatty proteins, fruits and vegetables remains one of the best ways to keep a body young.

Bill Victor is the owner of Victor Fitness System Professional Fitness Trainers, Flashpoint Athletic Speed & Agility Specialists, and Performance Nutrition Consultants. He can be reached at victorfitsystems@gmail.com and online at http://theflashpoint.org and http://VictorFitnessSystems.com.