What is an Oxidant and Why Should I Care?
Let’s answer the question, what is an oxidant?
A lot of people talk about antioxidants and say they are good for us, but how many of us actually know why?
Antioxidants are a natural way of detoxing.
Detoxing is the process by which we detoxify, or remove toxic substances, from our bodies.
These substances can include drugs and alcohol, heavy metals, chemicals…or even the result of our own metabolic and immune systems: oxidants and free radicals.
Wait, Aren’t Oxidants and Free Radicals The Same Thing?
Let’s go over some terms to make this simpler.
Atoms (like oxygen, nitrogen, hydrogen, carbon, etc) are made up of three building blocks. These building blocks determine the “charge” of a molecule. A molecule is a collection of atoms.
The building blocks making up atoms are:
- Neutrons – neutral charge, not negative or positive
- Protons – positive charge
- Electrons – negative charge
The nucleus of every atom is made up of neutrons and protons that keep a certain number of electrons in its “orbit”. A “normal” atom will have the same number of protons and electrons (opposites attract). However, when an atom has an odd number of electrons, it can create a positively (too few electrons) or negatively (too many electrons) charged molecule.
A free radical is a molecule with an unpaired electron, that will either take or give an electron to complete its pair, depending on its charge.
An oxidant is a molecule that will take an electron from another molecule (positively charged compared to the donor molecule).
The opposite of an oxidant is a reducing agent. A reducing agent will give up an electron to another molecule (negatively charged).
So, a free radical can be an oxidant or a reducing agent, but oxidants are not necessarily free radicals.
An oxidant can have all of its electrons paired and take an electron from another molecule. It BECOMES a free radical because of the reaction.
What Does All of This Mean?
Oxidants in our bodies are the result of natural processes that happen all the time.
Each type of cell performs certain functions, like white blood cells surrounding and breaking down pathogens or mitochondria producing chemical energy to power our cells.
When cells do their jobs, molecules are converted into different ones which sometimes leaves us with free radicals.
One of the main molecular changes that happen almost constantly is cellular respiration. Cellular respiration is when our cells use oxygen that we have taken in through our lungs to break down sugars.
Our metabolism is fueled by oxygen.
The sugar in our blood, glucose, combines with oxygen to produce energy. During this process, carbon dioxide and water are byproducts.
This happens because the atoms included in oxygen and glucose rearrange themselves.
It takes six oxygen molecules (6O2) to transform one glucose molecule (C6H12O6) into six carbon dioxide molecules, six water molecules and 36 ATP molecules.
ATP stands for adenosine triphosphate, which is what stores the energy used by all of our cells. Think of ATP as tiny batteries for all of our cells.
With all the atoms jumping back and forth to turn oxygen and glucose into energy, water and carbon dioxide, we end up with a lot of free radicals.
What Do Free Radicals Do To Us?
An abundance of free radicals can lead to a chain reaction with cells that contain oxygen. Oxygen accepts an electron easily and is therefore considered to be highly reactive. Molecules containing oxygen that continue this chain reaction are called reactive oxygen species or ROS.
When there is an abundance of ROS in our cells, it causes oxidative stress.
Oxidative stress is wear and tear on living cells caused by the reactions of ROS and surrounding molecules. It can cause DNA and RNA damage and lead to illnesses like heart disease, diabetes and most importantly, cancer.
What Else Causes Free Radicals and Oxidants?
Environmental factors can increase the production of free radicals, which will lead to oxidative stress.
Some of these factors include:
- cigarette smoke
- infections (bacterial, fungal, viral)
- air pollution
- alcohol and toxins
- excessive exercise (tissue damage)
How Do We Stop The Reactions?
To minimize oxidation, we need to neutralize the charge of the cells that are causing it.
To do this, we rely on what we call antioxidants.
Antioxidants are compounds that counteract oxidation and oxidative stress in the body. They do so by sacrificing electrons to neutralize oxidants and stop the chain reaction that causes oxidative stress.
Our bodies make some antioxidants and diets rich in fruits and vegetables will provide more. Unfortunately, our world is full of causes of free radicals which makes it difficult to maintain a proper balance between oxidants and antioxidants (we do need some oxidants for immune system functions).
MetaFire Nutrition has developed a special blend of antioxidants, along with other excellent natural detoxing ingredients.
MetaDetox helps to balance your oxidants and antioxidants while removing excess heavy metals, providing a natural colon cleanse and coating your digestive tract to help reduce the risk of ulcers and acid reflux.
While providing an excellent natural detox, it also contains multiple ingredients that lower blood pressure and lipid levels, increase insulin sensitivity, speed up and enhance digestion and improve brain function.
MetaDetox will help to restore the balance and protect your cells from damage.
For more information on blood sugar stabilization and insulin sensitivity, see MetaFire Weight Loss