What are Free Radicals and Antioxidants?

[[wiki:Free radicals]] are unstable atoms or group of atoms that has at least one unpaired electron and is, therefore, unstable and highly reactive. They can cause damage to cells or to DNA contained within the cells, they destroy the biochemical processes within cells and compromise the immune system making the body vulnerable to disease.

While the body is constantly working, cells are metabolizing and creating energy as they carry out their tasks. This natural process results in free radicals as a byproduct of oxygen metabolism, the same way driving to work in your car creates exhaust fumes. Some free radicals are natural byproducts of the ongoing workings of the body. Some are from environmental factors, such as pollution, radiation, and cigarette smoke.

Free radicals become extremely damaging to the body as they steal electrons from your cells. They begin to spread like a wildfire through the years if your body does not have enough antioxidants to keep them in check. They can attack cell walls, get inside the cell, and cause damage to the DNA.

Untreated, the damage from free radicals accumulates with age. They are the cause of many degenerative diseases, and are associated with many of the signs of the ageing process.

Free radicals in the body have been proven to:

  • Damage cholesterol-carrying particles,
  • May increase the risk of atherosclerosis.
  • Contribute to the formation of blood clots,
  • May increase the risk of a heart attack or stroke,
  • Damage a cells genetic material (DNA),
  • May lead to cancer,
  • Trigger inflammation,
  • Suppress the immune system,
  • Impair cell function,
  • Start, and extend, the ageing process.

[[wiki:Antioxidants]] are chemical compounds or substances that inhibit or reduces oxidation damage caused by free radicals.

Antioxidants are categorized as a) water-soluble or b) fat-soluble and divided according to the source of origin.

Within the body

a) [[wiki:Superoxide dismutase]] (SOD) – prevents the damage caused by the toxic oxygen molecule known as [[wiki:superoxide]].

b) [[wiki:Glutathione]] – is an amino acid which is converted by our bodies into [[wiki:glutathione peroxidase]], a powerful antioxidant. Glutathione is a major cellular cleanser and a free radical scavenger.

External sources

Vitamins

[[wiki:Vitamin A]] – vitamin A and its precursor [[wiki:beta carotene]] are powerful free radical scavengers.

[[wiki:Vitamin C]] – it has been proven that vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant. Vitamin C combined with [[wiki:flavonoid]] becomes even more potent. It also enhances the immune system and may recycle other antioxidants like vitamin E.

[[wiki:Vitamin E]] – is a powerful antioxidant as well, and prevents oxidation of [[wiki:lipids]] (oxidized [[wiki:LDL]] is responsible for hardening of arteries). It also improves oxygen utilization, enhances immunity, may be useful in preventing cataracts caused by free radicals and has a protective effect on the heart.

Minerals

[[wiki:Selenium]] – acts synergistically with vitamin E and may also increase vitamin E uptake.

[[wiki:Zinc]] – has antioxidant properties and is a constituent of superoxide dismutase (SOD). It may help keep vitamin E levels in blood and aid in absorption of vitamin A.

Semi-essential antioxidants

[[wiki:CoQ10]] – is an antioxidant that may play an important role in the generation of cellular energy, immune system stimulation and also play a role in certain cardiovascular conditions. It may exert its antioxidant effect by scavenging single oxygen.

[[wiki:Lipoic acid]] – may enhance the functioning of vitamin E, vitamin C and glutathione. It is both water-soluble and fat-soluble therefore is also known as the “universal antioxidant”.

[[wiki:Lutein]] – is found in vegetables like spinach and kale. It promotes long-term eye health in two ways. Lutein protects the eyes from damaging effects of the sun and as an antioxidant it protects the eyes from free radical damage and premature ageing. The human body is unable to manufacture lutein, so the body must rely on lutein-rich foods and supplements.

[[wiki:Melatonin]] – may provide special protection to the nucleus within a cell, that contains DNA. It may stimulate the enzyme glutathione peroxidase. Also, used as a sleep aid.

[[wiki:Lycopene]] – is a bright red carotene and carotenoid pigment and phytochemical found in tomatoes and other red fruits and vegetables, watermelon and pink grapefruit but mostly in tomatoes and tomato-based sauces, juices, and ketchup which accounts for more than 85% of the dietary intake of lycopene for most people.

To sum up:

Regular antioxidant intake may contribute to a longer and healthier life.

Vitamins A,C,E and melatonin may reduce age-related degenerative diseases and slow the ageing process

Common sources of excess free radicals in the human body today are cigarette smoke, air pollution, pesticides, herbicides, overexposure to the sun, automobile exhaust, radiation, smog, stress, rancid foods, food contaminants, and a myriad of other factors that are part of our modem life.

Using antioxidants is one of the best ways to help protect your body against dangerous free radicals in the body, which can lead to health problems and disease.

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