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What is an Antioxidant?

Question: What is an antioxidant?

As the word suggests, an antioxidant is "anti" -- or against -- oxidation (oxygen in its toxic state). Just as oxidation damages metal in the form of rust, oxygen in its toxic state (also known as a free radical) can oxidize, or damage cells in the human body. Antioxidants are compounds found naturally in the body and in the nutrients we consume through foods and supplements. Antioxidants neutralize free radicals. Free radicals are molecules that invade your system and damage healthy cells. They can be produced by normal activity in the body as well as environmental toxins, poor dietary and lifestyle habits, pollution and stress. Free radicals are short-lived, highly reactive molecules that contain one or more unpaired electrons. They damage healthy cells by stealing from them. Antioxidants neutralize free radicals by donating electrons to free radicals, thereby saving healthy cells that may otherwise be damaged. Increasing concentrations of antioxidants is often necessary to maintain their protective activity for optimum health. Some of our most popular antioxidant supplements include vitamin E, grapeseed extract, Pycnogenol®, beta-carotene, garlic, resveratrol and acai.

This question was answered by a trained product specialist at Swanson Health Products. Do you have a question you’d like answered? Send it via email to

(Note: as per industry regulations, we cannot and will not answer medical questions, make treatment or diagnosis recommendations or comment on disease inquiries. Such questions must be answered by your doctor or professional health care provider.)


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