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Antioxidants work to prevent damage to the body before it actually happens. They protect and nurture cells naturally, combating disease and promoting good health. Antioxidants come in many forms, including minerals, enzymes and vitamins. Vitamins and minerals with antioxidant properties are called nutrient antioxidants. The family of naturally formed components protects cells from free radicals, which are highly charged oxygen molecules with unpaired electrons that attempt to obtain electrons from other molecules.
Free radicals are formed naturally in the body, but their production is increased by factors such as smoking, sun damage, stress and toxins like air pollution and asbestos. The resulting damage diminishes the skin’s structural support and decreases its elasticity, resilience and suppleness, leads to inflammation, and is the source of liver spots and poor skin condition. In addition to being the main culprit of wrinkles, free radicals, in essence, accelerate the aging process. Studies have shown antioxidants stop this cellular chain reaction of oxidation by neutralizing free radicals.1
Antioxidants can improve cell function; increase collagen production; improve elasticity; create healthier, younger skin cells; and reduce sun damage ... but the improvement takes time. Like a healthy diet, the more potent the antioxidants used, the healthier the results. Black currants, cherries, cantaloupe, grapes, blueberries, blackberries, cranberries, peppers and spinach are among a growing variety of foods found to contain surprisingly high levels of disease-fighting antioxidant compounds, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry in 2004. This study is one of the largest, most comprehensive analyses to date of the antioxidant content of commonly consumed foods.
As an ultimate superfruit, the grape’s abundance of polyphenols with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties not only keeps blood vessels resilient, but also boosts the skin and body’s resistance against disease. Researchers have found, in particular, that the skin and seeds of grapes contain large concentrations of compounds that have a positive effect on health, such as bioflavonoids, including quercetin, which has an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effect, and oligomeric proanthocyanidins (OPCs), incredibly effective chemicals in neutralizing free radicals.2 OPCs are a special family of polyphenols (bioflavonoids) capable of renewing the most important building blocks—such as collagen and elastin fibers—of every part of the human body, including the skin. In the connective tissue, OPCs bind to collagen to maintain and even restore the cross-links, hence the flexibility of these essential proteins.2 Grape seeds are one of the richest known sources of OPCs. Red grapes also contain a natural plant antibody, resveratrol, which has the effects of an antioxidant.
Vitamin E is a high-potency antioxidant that helps improve circulation and repair tissue, and is one of the most efficient chain-breaking antioxidants available. It helps prevent cell damage by inhibiting the formation of free radicals. Vitamin E helps retard aging and may help prevent age spots. Alpha-tocopherol—a form of vitamin E—helps protect enzymes, such as glutathione peroxidase 4, which is known to act against cancerous cell activity.3 Alpha-tocopherol is the most common antioxidant source from food. Some of the natural sources of vitamin E are nut oils, corn oil, tomatoes, spinach and peppers.
Antioxidants in the Skin by Roger McMullen is the first book to offer a comprehensive account of antioxidants in personal care and addresses the cellular level of human skin.
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