An antioxidant is a substance that reduces oxidative damage caused by free radicals.
Dietary antioxidants include vitamins A, C, E, and beta carotene, which is converted to vitamin A in the body, along with the mineral zinc. Oxidation occurs when oxygen causes metal to rust or an apple to turn brown. At a chemistry level, oxidation is the addition of an oxygen molecule to a substance. In the body, the addition of an oxygen molecule to substances known as “free radicals” is thought to protect the body from damage which these “free radicals” could potentially cause.
Researchers believe that antioxidants can reduce the progression of the eye disease known as macular degeneration. The macula is a pea-sized group of receptor cells at the back of the retina. With macular degeneration, these cells are damaged and sight is affected, most notably central vision, not peripheral vision. Because these are retina cells, they cannot regenerate. In studies, a combination of antioxidants halted the progression of the age-related macular degeneration, and today, various products are available combining these antioxidants for eye health.
Other claims for antioxidants include cancer prevention, heart and cardiovascular disease, anti-aging, counteracting the effects of smoking, and boosting immune systems. So far, researchers have not been able to prove any of these uses. However, eating a diet rich in antioxidants is healthy. Fruits and vegetables, especially deeply or brightly coloured ones, are ideal sources of antioxidants. The best treatment, as always, is prevention through healthful living.