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I'd like to know how antioxidants affects the human metabolism and which ones are essential for metabolism processes.

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This mainly depends on which kind of antioxidants you're talking about.

  • Vitamin A and E are antioxidants acquired from the food
  • Superoxide dismutase, Catalase and the Glutathione system are enzymes produced by the cell.

Antioxidants keep the oxidative balance of the cell and quench free radicals which are generated by the mitochondrial respiratory chain. Very simplified: Antioxidants are thought to be anti-ageing compounds because free radicals destroy cellular compounds, which can be related to the ageing process.

I would be very careful with products claiming to contain antioxidants and be therefore anti-aging. This whole anti-ageing marketing is far from being scientifically proven.

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so in answer to the OP, the antioxidants don't affect metabolism per se, but they are required for 'normal' functioning of a cell over a prolonged period of time, otherwise the cell would get damaged by free radicals? Which particular ones will likely be tissue/context specific I guess? –  Luke May 29 '12 at 12:19
The last question is not so easy to answer and AFAIK unknown. The first question is right, it's more on the cellular level. –  biologue May 29 '12 at 12:35
@zenbomb is right. The essential exogenous antioxidants are vitamins. How they, and the non-essential ones affect the metabolism is an active area of research. zenbomb is especially right to warn you against commercial products (or particular foods) claimed to have health benefits. –  Ryan Apr 3 '13 at 23:51

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