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Although it may seem obvious, an antioxidant is a chemical that prevents other chemicals from becoming "oxidized" and undergoing a chemical change. In the body, highly reactive substances called free radicals are constantly being produced. Free radicals can readily damage the body's own cells. In living tissues, antioxidants remove free radicals before they can damage normal tissues.
Although more research needs to be done, free radicals damage healthy cells by injuring DNA, proteins, and other structures within the cells. It is believed that this speeds up the aging process, weakens the immune system, and may contribute to the development of cataracts, heart disease, and various forms of cancer. For these reasons, it is important that everyone consume enough antioxidants. The best sources of dietary antioxidants, such as vitamins A and C, are vegetables and fruits. Carrots, broccoli, tomatoes, peaches, green peppers, strawberries, citrus fruits, and tomatoes are excellent sources of dietary antioxidants. In addition, wheat germ, nuts, and whole grains are good sources of Vitamin E, which is also an antioxidant.
From the dermatology perspective, exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun will result in the production of free radicals. Several studies have suggested that antioxidants help protect the skin from the damaging effects of the free radicals that result from sun exposure. For this reason, Dr. Amerian recommends that her patients use a topical antioxidant preparation as part of their daily skin-care program.
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