What Is a Selective Antioxidant?

Last Updated on: July 5, 2022

Molecular hydrogen water pitcher | Echo H2 Pitcher

When it comes to being healthy, odds are most of us know about the importance of antioxidants. But there’s a new type of antioxidant in town, and it’s starting to get all of the attention. Selective antioxidants like molecular hydrogen are slightly different from the antioxidants we are familiar with, but they offer powerful health benefits that all of us need.

What Is an Antioxidant?

Most of us have at least heard of antioxidants, especially with the increase of food and drinks that claim to have high amounts of them. Simply put, an antioxidant is a substance, either natural or man made, that helps prevent, delay, or diminish cell damage caused by free radicals. (1)

In more technical terms, using “antioxidant” to refer to a substance is actually incorrect. Instead, “antioxidant” refers to a chemical property of a given substance, specifically that of being able to donate electrons. (2)

Although the body has a natural antioxidant defense system, you can also get more antioxidants in other ways, mainly through the food you eat. (3) Studies have found that fruits and vegetables are naturally high in antioxidants, and those who eat more of these foods tend to have lower risks of disease. (1)

Some of the most common antioxidants you may know of include vitamin E, vitamin C, beta carotene, zinc, copper, manganese, and selenium. Other antioxidants include lycopene, lutein, zeaxanthin, other carotenoids, glutathione, coenzyme Q10, flavonoids, phenols, and polyphenols. (1, 2)

Antioxidant rich foods
You can get antioxidants from your body’s natural defenses and from the foods you eat.

How Do Antioxidants Work?

Antioxidants help counteract molecules known as free radicals, which can cause damage to the DNA, membrane, and other parts of cells. The process of how antioxidants do this is fairly simple: free radicals are atoms, molecules, or ions that lack a full complement of electrons, which makes them highly reactive and unstable. Because they lack electrons, free radicals steal electrons from other molecules, ultimately damaging the donor molecules. (3)

Because antioxidants have the chemical property of being electron donors, they can give electrons to free radicals before the free radicals have a chance to steal them from another molecule — all without the antioxidant becoming an electron-scavenging molecule itself. As a result, antioxidants help stop chain reactions that can damage both other molecules in the cell and other cells within the body. (2, 3)

pregnant woman enjoying her salad
Antioxidants donate electrons to neutralize free radicals before they cause cellular damage.

Why Do We Need Antioxidants?

Antioxidants are a necessary part of staying healthy — and so are free radicals. Let us explain:

Even though free radicals are unstable, they naturally occur as a result of exercise and converting food into energy. We are also exposed to free radicals from various environmental factors, including cigarette smoke, air pollution, and UV light. (3) In moderation, free radicals play an important role as signal substances and contribute to other processes in the body. (4) Generally speaking, we never want to completely eliminate free radicals. Instead, the problem arises when there are too many free radicals inside our bodies.

Free radicals can change or damage a cell’s DNA. They can also alter the cell’s membrane, changing what is able to go in and out of the cell. When there is an excess of free radicals, they are known to cause what is called oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is a major contributing factor to various diseases, including cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, and more. (3, 1)

Although antioxidants help neutralize the damaging effects of free radicals, it can become easy for the amount of free radicals to overwhelm the amount of antioxidants in the body. When this happens, oxidative stress takes over, and we can become more susceptible to disease. The antioxidants we do have still play a role in fighting free radicals, but it is important that we provide our bodies with the additional antioxidants we need to re-establish homeostasis.

You see, antioxidants are not interchangeable. Each has its own specific and unique chemical makeup and behaviors. As a result, an individual antioxidant cannot fight off any and every free radical it meets. (2) That’s why we need a variety of antioxidants, and we get these antioxidants both from our body’s natural defense system and the foods we eat.

What Is a Selective Antioxidant?

A selective antioxidant is an antioxidant that can target specific free radicals rather than reacting with a wide range of free radicals. Selective antioxidants can also help eliminate only the excess free radicals to help your body return to homeostasis. (5)

Woman blowing her nose in a tissue
Selective antioxidants can target specific free radicals that other antioxidants cannot neutralize.

What Makes a Selective Antioxidant Different From Normal Antioxidants?

Although both “normal” and selective antioxidants both work to neutralize free radicals, there are some major differences between them. For example, “normal” antioxidants can “easily and indiscriminately scavenge, react with, and neutralize a wide range of radicals or oxidants.” (5) Selective antioxidants, however, can focus their efforts on only the excess free radicals or certain types of free radicals.

In addition, many “normal” or non-selective antioxidants, such as vitamin C or vitamin E, can become damaging to your health when taken in excess. Selective antioxidants, however, do not. (5)

Perhaps a more significant difference is that many “normal” antioxidants come from your body’s natural antioxidant defense system. However, studies have found that one particular free radical called the hydroxyl radical cannot be neutralized by these natural defenses. (6)

The hydroxyl radical is a reactive oxygen species (ROS). ROS is a group of highly reactive free radicals that includes the superoxide anion, hydrogen peroxide, and singlet oxygen. The overproduction of several different ROS has been shown to have toxic effects on the body; however, the majority of these effects have been linked to the hydroxyl radical (•OH), which is one of the most reactive ROS. (6)

The hydroxyl radical can easily damage various parts of a cell, including the lipids, carbohydrates, proteins, and nucleic acid. Ultimately, the hydroxyl radical can cause cellular necrosis (injury that leads to premature cell death) and apoptosis (cellular death). (6) Because the hydroxyl radical can cause such extensive cellular damage and cannot be neutralized by your body’s natural defenses, it is extremely important to give your body an antioxidant that can target this specific free radical and render it harmless.

That’s where molecular hydrogen comes in.

Molecular Hydrogen as a Selective Antioxidant

Over the years, many studies have found that not only does molecular hydrogen have strong antiapoptotic, anti-inflammatory, and anti-allergy effects, but it also works as a selective antioxidant. While it is still unclear how molecular hydrogen works the way it does, studies have found that hydrogen gas (H2) can selectively reduce the cell-damaging hydroxyl radical, as well as peroxynitrite, another toxic free radical. (6)

In addition to selectively targeting highly toxic free radicals, studies found that molecular hydrogen does so without also targeting other ROS, specifically those with physiological roles that are important for normal cellular and bodily processes. (6) This is possible because molecular hydrogen simply can’t react with some of these signaling oxides, including nitric oxide and hydrogen peroxide. (5)

In short, molecular hydrogen can readily and quickly react with the most reactive and damaging free radical, the hydroxyl radical, while leaving necessary free radicals alone to play their role in important system processes. Ultimately, molecular hydrogen is the perfect antioxidant to help bring your body back into homeostasis after experiencing an overproduction of free radicals and developing oxidative stress.

Woman visiting the doctor
Molecular hydrogen is a selective antioxidant that specifically targets the hydroxyl radical.

How to Enjoy the Antioxidant Benefits of Molecular Hydrogen

Want to give your body the extra hand it needs to fight off free radicals and oxidative stress? It’s easier than you may think! With hydrogen water, you can give your body the molecular hydrogen it needs to fight off the hydroxyl radical, reduce oxidative stress, and help your body return to homeostasis.

Our machines infuse hydrogen gas into your water, giving you easy access to molecular hydrogen’s many benefits — including its ability to function as a selective antioxidant. By regularly consuming hydrogen-rich water, you can give your body a steady supply of molecular hydrogen to help keep your health in tip-top shape. Choose from several different Echo ™ machines that you can use in your home, or take hydrogen-rich water with you with the Echo Go™. No matter your choice, it’s never been easier to enjoy the powerful antioxidant benefits of molecular hydrogen!

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