What is the theory behind the use of antioxidants?
Antioxidants interfere with the production of free radicals, compounds with an unpaired free electron that takes electrons from others, potentially affecting the immune system or cell membranes. One well-known free radical is superoxide, which is formed using NADPH. Superoxide is both a reducing and oxidizing agent and can spontaneously undergo a reaction to form hydrogen peroxide and oxygen. Hydrogen peroxide can also react with superoxide to produce a hydroxyl radical (the most reactive of the oxygen products) or chloride ions to form hypochlorous acid (the active ingredient in chlorine bleach).
A variety of antioxidants exist including vitamins A, C, D, and E and the trace elements copper, zinc, iron, and selenium, which scavenge free radicals and may protect cells against oxidation. To date, there is little evidence to support that this therapy is helpful in patients with arthritis.