Antioxidants are good for your health.
Or at least that is a popular claim.
An antioxidant is any molecule that slows down or prevents oxidation reactions. Originally, oxidation reactions were defined as chemical reactions with oxygen. More recently, oxidation reactions have been described as reactions in which an atom or molecule loses an electron.
Oxidation is a natural part of life. Excessively high antioxidant levels are detrimental to health. Some people have suggested that oxidation reactions contribute to heart disease, declines in cognitive abilities, and cancer.
“Vitamin C, vitamin E, and beta-carotene have been shown to be antioxidants in a test tube, and it is often claimed that they and many other substances are able to function as antioxidants in the body. However, whether any molecule can act as an antioxidant depends on its environment, and it is not clear which of these can be counted on to work in your body. Further, even if they act as antioxidants in the body, it is not clear that they will have any effect on heart disease or cancer,” says Gerda Endemann, biochemist and author of Fat is Not the Enemy (Endemann, 2002).