Antioxidant Answer

I am reaping the benefits of other people actually reading my blog-- I now know a little more about antioxidants (I expressed my confusion about what they are and what they do in my review of acai juice. Right away my scientist friend Nicole sent the following explanation (I hope she doesn't mind me quoting her here, but I found her explanation clear and helpful):

The lab next to me has been studying the effects of dietary antioxidants have on cell function. This is a relatively new field of research so much is not known. It is safe to say that antioxidants have an effect on free-radicals and that free-radicals can cause components within the cell to function in an abnormal way. This can lead to cancers and aging quicker. More than likely the effects of antioxidants are seen over a life time consumption and not just in single does. How do you know that they are working? hard to say, you get cancer 20 years later than you would of or an illness is less severe? Also, antioxidants is a broad general term. There are many different types of antioxidants that effect cells in different ways.

Best sources of antioxidants, fresh fruits and vegetables and many spices especially those used in Indian cooking (cumin is suppose to be one of the better sources) So if you consume a diet full of antioxidant rich foods, you will lower your blood pressure, should increase you energy levels and you should feel over all better. Now, are these effects just because of the antioxidant components, probably not. I don't buy products that touts antioxidant properties because of that, if I buy those products because they tend to contain less chemicals and more natural ingredients and that is important to me.

And when I went to visit my mother, a chemist, she also explained antioxidants to me. She explained that "free radicals" are very unstable molecules with only one electron that are desperately searching for another molecule to attach to. And if they attach to "scavenger" molecules in the body they just go inert and everything is fine, but if they get inside a cell and attach to the DNA, then they could start a cancer tumor. And antioxidants add more of these "scavenger" molecules to help take out the free radicals in your body. Or they are scavenger molecules themselves, something like that.

So here's my summary (and anyone should feel free to comment here if I'm missing an important point):

1) Antioxidants help eliminate free radicals, which don't necessarily have anything to do with oxygen.
2) Free radicals are bad because they can cause cancer, among other problems.
3) You can ingest antioxidants from everyday healthy foods, and don't need to buy special antioxidant products.
4) Since free radicals are floating around your body all the time, you should eat antioxidants all the time so they are continually in your system to take out the free radicals.
5) It is important to eat antioxidants as you age, since your body's innate ability to take out free radicals declines over time, and adding antioxidants from food becomes especially helpful.