Photo: Brooke Lark

From PB archives

Antioxidants, free radicals and oxidative stress​

Free radical biochemistry is experiencing a spike of interest. Why? Free radicals! You might have heard about them; they are a popular topic these days since our bodies are under continuous attack from oxidative stress. But what are they actually, and what is oxidative stress?

To understand oxidative stress, we need to zoom into the microscopic world. Everything solid or liquid, a gas or a plasma, is made of atoms, consisting of a nucleus with its positive particles (protons) and electrically neutral particles (neutrons). The nucleus, which forms the atom’s core, is surrounded by a cloud of negatively charged particles called electrons.

Electrons like to be in pairs. When unpaired, they become reactive and scavenge the body either for other electrons to pair with (behaving as reductants) or to donate the additional electron (acting as oxidants).

The reaction is damaging to biologically relevant molecules such as DNA, proteins, carbohydrates, and lipids, causing cell damage.

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Free radicals can appear in the body due to normal metabolic processes or as a result of an external cause, including air pollutants, industrial chemicals, ozone, X-rays, cigarette smoking, and so on. They continue to accumulate with age throughout the body, causing adverse changes and manifesting in premature aging and disease.


On the other hand, an antioxidant is a stable molecule that can donate an electron to a rampaging free radical and counteract the damage (demonstrating free radicals scavenging property).

Some micronutrients (vitamins/antioxidants) show the potential to modulate oxidative stress. These are primary vitamin E (α-tocopherol), vitamin C, and B-carotene.

The body cannot manufacture these micronutrients, so we need to supply them in our diet. In a topical application (in skincare), they can prevent oxidative stress on our skin cells.

Berries, greens, plums are the highest sources of antioxidants. You can add them to your diet and combine them with high antioxidant skincare products that are organic and toxic-free such as Ex Prūnīs Antioxidant Treatment Oil by Phaedra Botanicals to prevent oxidative stress in your body and skin.