Antioxidants are compounds that inhibit oxidation processes. During oxidation, free radicals are released in the body and oxidation can trigger chain reactions that can damage certain cells. During oxidation, the atoms that make up a compound (such as the proteins that make up enzymes) lose electrons, becoming electron deficient. Primary antioxidants prevent this process by providing electrons (such as vitamins A, C and E).
Oxidation and free radical formation in our bodies also occurs during natural metabolism, but is enhanced by stress, physical work, exercise, toxins, radioactive and UV radiation. These free radicals can damage, among other things, our DNA, which can lead to mutations (changes) over time, and mutations can lead to various diseases. The sum of these damaging processes is called oxidative stress. All free radicals increase inflammation, so antioxidant vitamins also have anti-inflammatory effects.
Antioxidants can also improve the efficiency of immune processes. Several studies have established a negative relationship between oxidative stress and the immune system, with oxidative stress damaging the immune system.
Among vitamins, vitamins A, C and E have primary antioxidant effects. When you think of antioxidants, these three vitamins are likely to come to mind as they are the most researched natural antioxidants, with a wealth of studies reporting their effectiveness.
Vitamin D acts as an antioxidant by stimulating the repair of cells already damaged by oxidation, reducing the number of inflammatory cells.