Antioxidants, a food additive, include beta-carotene, lutein, lycopene, selenium, vitamin C, vitamin A and vitamin E that protect the cells of the body against the damaging effects of free radicals, and are formed as a result of various metabolic processes. Synthetic antioxidant supplies are also available but their overuse can lead to side effects and should not be used without consulting a physician. Inclusion of antioxidant-rich foods in your diet every day may, however, be immensely beneficial.
Considerable laboratory evidence indicates that antioxidants may slow down or prevent the development of cancer, says the National Cancer Institute. Free radicals in humans are usually electrically charged oxygen molecules which take electrons from other molecules, and in turn, damage the cellular DNA. This damage may become irreversible and lead to cancer. Antioxidants prevent cancer by stabilizing the free radicals and preventing their interaction with other molecules.
As per an intervention review published in the January 2011 issue of "The Cochrane Library," men taking antioxidant supplements like vitamin C, vitamin E and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) were four times more likely to cause conception, when compared to other sub-fertile men. Antioxidants may help prevent oxidative stress and damage to male fertility organs and help the sperm stay healthy and swimming for longer periods of time, thereby helping with conception and pregnancy.
A study published in the February 2004 edition of the journal "Diabetic Care" states that consumption of a diet rich in antioxidants may reduce the risk developing type 2 diabetes. Another antioxidant called alpha-linolenic acid can scavenge free radicals and help increase insulin sensitivity and treat painful nervous conditions associated with diabetes.
Antioxidants may also promote the proper functioning of the immune system by preventing free oxygen radical damage of the immune cells such as T-cells and the B-cells. In fact, according to the results of a study published in the September 2005 edition of the "Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology," the response rates to antiviral therapy were enhanced in hepatitis C patients who took oral and intravenous antioxidant supplements compared to the patients who did not take antioxidants. Supplements included vitamin C, vitamin E, glycyrrhizin, schisandra, silymarin, lipoic acid, and L-glutathione.
MedlinePlus reported in February 2011 that individuals, especially men, who ate flavonoid antioxidant-rich foods, such as berries, were less likely to develop Parkinsons disease. The antioxidants (Foodchem) may produce the neuroprotective affect by helping the nerve cells to handle oxidative stress better, thereby preventing the nerve cell damage associated with Parkinsons disease.