«Antioxidant are compounds that inhibit oxidation. Oxidation is a chemical reaction that can produce free radicals, thereby leading to chain reactions that may damage the cell of organisms. Antioxidant such as thiol or ascorbic acid (vitamin C) terminate these chain reactions. To balance the oxidative state, plants and animals maintain complex systems of overlapping antioxidant, such as glutathione and enzymes (e.g., catalase and superoxide dismutase), produced internally, or the dietary antioxidant vitamin C, and vitamin E.
The term "antioxidant" is mostly used for two entirely different groups of substances: industrial chemicals that are added to products to prevent oxidation, and naturally occurring compounds that are present in foods and tissue. The former, industrial antioxidant, have diverse uses: acting as preservatives in food and cosmetics, and being oxidation-inhibitors in fuels.
Antioxidant dietary supplements have not been shown to improve health in humans, or to be effective at preventing disease. Supplements of beta-carotene, vitamin A, and vitamin E have no positive effect on mortality rate or cancer risk. Additionally, supplementation with selenium or vitamin E do not reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.» (wikipedia)