Oxidation is a chemical reaction during which electrons from a substance get transferred to an oxidizing agent.
The oxidation process produces free radicals which cause damage to the cells by starting chain reactions. Antioxidants are reducing agents which remove free radicals and put a stop to the chain reactions.
Oxidation reactions are necessary and crucial for life, but at the same time they do cause damage. All living organisms need oxygen as the main fuel for their existence but at the same time oxygen is a reactive material too that has the property to cause damage to the living organisms by the process of oxidation. Organisms do contain a network of antioxidant metabolites and enzymes that work together to keep cellular components such as DNA, protein and lipids away from getting damaged. The antioxidants carry out their task in two ways. One they prevent the reactive species from getting formed in the first place. Next they try to remove them before they cause damage to the cell.
It is not that the reactive oxygen species are totally unwanted. They also do have some useful functions in the cells. Hence the role of the antioxidants is not to remove the oxidants entirely but to keep them at an optimum level to keep them away from causing serious damage.
Antioxidants are classified into two categories. Hydrophilic is the type that is soluble in water while hydrophobic dissolves in lipids. Water soluble antioxidants are known to react with the oxidants in the cell cytosol and blood plasma and the lipid-soluble oxidants protect cell membranes from damage.
Among antioxidants some are synthesized by the body some are available as enzymes and others have to be taken either as part of food or as vitamin supplements.
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