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FREE RADICALS AND ANTIOXIDANTS

If we could give every individual the right amount of nourishment and exercise, not too little and not too much, we would have found the safest way to health.  Hippocrates

flowers - Faerie Glen Nature Reserve, Pretoria, Gauteng Province, South Africa [2014 © paulgodard.com]

Free radicals are molecules or groups of molecules with an uneven number of electrons. These are formed when vulnerable molecules lose or gain an electron when exposed to oxygen. An apple for instance, once it has been cut open and the flesh exposed to the air, the oxygen interacts with the molecules forcing them to loose electrons which turns them into free radicals. Once formed, these free radicals become very reactive and start a chain reaction, like falling dominos knocking off electrons from healthy molecules to steal an electron for themselves.This begins the process of disintegration and the apple flesh turns brown. This is called oxidation. Leave the apple exposed to the air for long enough and the whole apple will become rotten as free radicals do their work of destroying all healthy molecules in the attempt to recapture electrons for themselves.

In the human body the danger comes from the damage they do when they react with important cellular components such as DNA and cell membranes. Cells then function poorly or even die when this occurs. Free radicals do not always destroy the molecules they attack but damage them. This is far more serious as an accumulation of damaged cells in organ tissue for instance, creates the ground in which diseases can step in. Free radical damage caused by asbestos breathed into the lungs, for instance, over an extended period of time will create the space needed for cancer to develop. Similarly, damage to the brain by chemicals in hair dyes, straighteners etc. creates excessive free radical activity in the brain which has been linked to diseases such as Altzheimers, Parkinson’s, and memory loss. Free radical damage is associated to a host of chronic diseases including cancer and heart diseases.

The body is continually metabolising and this processes naturally produces a certain percentage of free radicals. However, there are a number of environmental factors that cause an excess of free radicals such as pollution, radiation, cigarette smoke, herbicides and pesticides, electromagnetic frequencies, poor diet, stress, lack of exercise and lack of sleep. Oxidative stress has been linked to arthritis, premature aging, oedema and leg swelling, artery hardening, and even an increased susceptibility to cancer. Free radicals are literally decaying otherwise healthy cells.

To counteract this destructive force nature provides a multitude of antioxidants. And how do these antioxidants work? If you think about it, if the destructive process is through oxidation the reverse would be antioxidation. Antioxidants achiever this by donating one of their electrons to the free radical. The amazing thing about this is that the antioxidant does not become a free radical by donating one of its electrons, but the free radical is neutralised.

Today the fruit which has been found to have the greatest ability to serve as an antioxidant is the Asai berry. Historically, sprouted wheat grass was used as a super antioxidant and remains at the top of the list of antioxidants. Wild blue berries, raspberries, broccoli, cherries and tomatoes all play their part in the fight against free radicals. Foods that contain Vitamin E, Vitamin C and Beta-carotene are the major source of antioxidants. Vitamin E is found in nuts, seeds, vegetable and fish oils, whole grains and apricots. Vitamin C, in citrus fruit, broccoli, spinach, kale and cabbage, peppers, cantaloupe, kiwi fruit and strawberries. Beta-carotene is found in milk and butter, egg yolk, liver, carrots, squash, yams, tomatoes, peaches, broccoli, spinach and grains.

The best way to keep healthy is to eat a wide variety of fresh, brightly coloured vegetables, and fruit; purple, red and blue grapes, blueberries, red berries, nuts, dark green leafy vegetables, sweet potato and orange vegetables, green beans, fish. Get plenty of sleep, good exercise, be grateful and strive for contentment and happiness. All of these will keep the free radical population to a minimum and create a healthy body, mind and spirit.

Martini Frederic H: 2006. Fundamentals of Anatomy and Physiology. Seventh Edition. Pearson Education, Inc. San Francisco, U.S.A.

Marieb Elaine N:  Essentials of Human Anatomy and Physiology. Fourth Edition. The Benjamin/Cummings Publishing Company, Inc. California.

Moritz, A:2005.Timeless secrets of health and rejuvenation. Ener-Chi Wellness Press


Published Date: 14 Nov 2014