Antioxidants are molecules that slow or prevent the oxidation of other molecules. Oxidation is a chemical reaction that transfers electrons from a substance to an oxidizing agent. Oxidation reactions can produce free radicals, which start chain reactions that damage cells. Antioxidants terminate these chain reactions by removing radical intermediates and inhibit other oxidation reactions by being oxidized themselves.
As we age, the number of healthy cells in our bodies decline. The reserves of cells in each of the body organs also reduce. This reserve capacity measures how we respond to stress and how well our bodies support our health. This is called the glucose tolerance measurement, and this also shows a loss as the body ages.
The process of aging is called oxidative damage. Oxidative damage reflects an imbalance between reactive oxygen species' systemic manifestation and a biological system's ability to detoxify the reactive intermediates or repair the resulting damage readily. However, anti-oxidants come to the rescue and are the first line of health defense against the damage caused by free radicals.
A good consumption of anti-oxidants is vital if we are to live long, healthy lives. Many studies have shown that the amounts of anti-oxidants we need could be more than those recommended by Recommended Daily Allowances(RDAs)
To explain how anti-oxidants work, think of how the cut part of an apple turns brown when exposed to the air for long enough: This is oxidative damage. Now, if you put a cut part of an apple into some lemon or orange juice, the antioxidant Vitamin C slows down the browning or oxidizing process. In the same way, antioxidants also protect the body’s cells and organs from being damaged or destroyed by free radicals. They help to support the immune system and increase stress resistance.
Free radicals are volatile compounds that can enter the body and cause damage to the body’s cells. Free radicals can alter a healthy cell and can kill it or turn it into an unhealthy one. They are also called oxidants.
Our bodies are made up of cells, and these cells' integrity is vital for our health. Substances that damage cell structure or integrity is the cause of diminished health. Breakdown of cell structure is also one of the hallmarks of the aging process. Like everything else in the universe, our cells are made of molecules, groups of atoms joined by electro-chemical bonds. The outer layers of atoms, electrons, are the key player in this bonding process. These electron layers seek a state of balance by forming pairs or even-numbered groups. If these bonds are split, atoms with unpaired electrons are formed, and these unstable atoms are called free radicals. The unstable free radical always attempts to return to a stable form, either by getting rid of its extra electrons or bonding with another atom to pair up electrons. Free radicals tend to "attack" the nearest molecule, trying to steal electrons. When that molecule loses electrons, it becomes a free radical itself, and then the whole process starts over again. One free radical can start a chain reaction. When this kind of chemical activity occurs in the body, the molecules getting attacked are parts of your cells. An abundance of free radicals in the body can disrupt cell structure. The balance between your anti-oxidants intake and your exposure to free radicals can literally be the difference in how a person feels. Free radicals can be formed from smoking, exhaust fumes, radiation, and frying or barbecuing food. They can also be generated in the body and can alter cell structures. Free radicals are also produced from pesticides and the chemical processing and refining of food. For example, by turning harmless oil from seeds into a solid fat like margarine or vegetable fat, a process known as hydrogenation is used. After this process is done, there is hardly anything left of the nutrients in the original food. When we heat these processed oils in either solid form or liquid form, it produces free radicals called trans-fats. This is why deep-fried foods are such bad news for our health. Free radicals in limited numbers are necessary to help destroy foreign invaders by the immune system. It is when they multiply beyond a level that is beneficial that they cause us harm.
While it’s not easy to avoid free radicals and oxidative damage, free radicals can be dealt with. Antioxidants "neutralize" free radicals by donating one of their own electrons, halting the chain reaction. However, antioxidants have the special property of being stable molecules even after donating an electron, so they don't become free radicals themselves. They act as free radical "hunters," thus helping to prevent molecular and cellular damage. Scientific research (e.g., the study by Cui, Kim, and Park, 2003, see Chaga Science) confirms that Siberian Chaga, with its high antioxidant concentration, possesses the capacity to "search and destroy" free radicals and protects cells against oxidative stress. Siberian Chaga contains much more antioxidants in one gram than Acai berries do.
ORAC stands for Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity. It was developed as an analytical tool for estimating substances' antioxidant capacity and has become a de facto standard in the natural products industry. As you can observe from the below table, wildcrafted Siberian Chaga demonstrates superior values compared to superior class medicinal mushrooms and other popular anti-oxidant juices available. Superoxide dismutase (SOD), or as stated in Russian Pharmacopeia, a Chromogenic Complex (a set of chromogens), is one of the most important antioxidants in our body. SOD decreases as we age. Living well and exercising keep levels up. Chaga has far more SOD than Vitamins C, E, and superfoods like barley grass, seaweed prunes, fish oils, many aromatherapy essential oils. SOD are enzymes to keep our cell membranes supple and healthy. In Russian Pharmacopeia, the Chromogenic Complex content is the most important indicator for Chaga mushroom quality determination.