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Any of various compounds added to certain foods, natural and synthetic rubbers, gasolines, and other products to retard autoxidation (combination with oxygen in the air at room temperature) and its effects. Aromatic compounds such as aromatic amines, phenols, and aminophenols delay loss of elasticity in rubber and gummy deposits in gasoline. Preservatives such as tocopherol (vitamin E), propyl gallate, butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT), and butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) prevent rancidity in fats, oils, and fatty foods. In the body, antioxidants such as vitamins C and E and selenium may reduce oxidation caused by free radicals.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on antioxidant, visit Britannica.com.