Antioxidant aging

Antioxidants and the aging process

Aging is the accumulation of various adverse changes in cells and tissues that increase the risk of death. Evidence is growing that free radicals are an underlying cause of aging as the biological markers of the process are the same as those caused by free radical damage.

As the mitochondria are where most of the oxygen reactions in the cell occur, they may be the most susceptible to damage by free radicals. It has been suggested that the rate of damage, and therefore aging, in mitochondria may determine how long a person lives. The ability of antioxidants to reduce this damage explains their possible role in slowing the aging process. Research into chemicals which could slow the damage to mitochondria without decreasing energy production is in the early stages but it is expected to increase.

Antioxidant agingDue to their effects on mitochondria and other elements such as cell membranes and genetic material, free radicals may aggravate the breakdown and sagging of tissues and deterioration of bodily organs involved in the aging process. Many diseases commonly associated with aging, including cancer, heart disease and psychological disorders, appear to be prevented or improved by increasing intake of antioxidants. High levels of antioxidants also increase the effectiveness of the immune system, making older people less susceptible to life-threatening infections.

Experiments with aging animals show that the effectiveness of the body's antioxidant system decreases with age, possibly because of reduced dietary intake, absorption or increased nutrient needs. A steady supply of antioxidant vitamins and minerals should enhance the body's natural defense mechanisms and improve the quality and length of life.

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