What does rust have to do with your health? More than you might think. When iron is exposed to air, oxygen triggers a chemical reaction called oxidation. During oxidation, renegade oxygen molecules called free radicals chip away at the composition of the iron. In our bodies, similar free radicals form as byproducts from the “burning” of food for energy and the breakdown of toxic substances, such as cigarette smoke and other pollutants.
Free radicals are also called “oxidants” because they oxidize, or damage, the body’s cells. Over time, increasing numbers of free radicals oxidize various cell parts, including membranes, proteins and DNA. The damage to DNA is particularly serious because it alters our genetic code, making it less efficient, accelerating the aging process and increasing our risk for degenerative diseases. Antioxidants neutralize, free radicals.