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This is my understanding: A free radical is a molecule with a single unpaired electron. This molecule is highly reactive because it wants to steal an electron from another molecule (oxidation). Anti-oxidants are strong reducing agents that can donate their electrons to free radicals to neutralize them.

In order for this mechanism to be effective, the anti-oxidant should itself remain stable after the reaction. However, at this point the anti-oxidant would be missing a single electron. What general mechanisms keep them stable, so we don't get an endless chain of free radicals? Are there general mechanisms or do they each work differently (I know there are a huge amount of different anti-oxidants)?

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    $\begingroup$ They do. But these radicals are way less aggressive. $\endgroup$ Sep 30 '20 at 15:31
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    $\begingroup$ There are oxidating and reducing radicals. Then there are oxidating and reducing agents that are not radicals. Then there are also radicals which recombine with other radicals. Then there are agens able to be reduced or oxidized, but not eagerly. Then there are antioxidants not forming radicals when oxidized. $\endgroup$
    – Poutnik
    Sep 30 '20 at 15:44

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