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Free Radical Damage and Antioxidants

April 21st, 2010

antioxidant-fruits.jpgA host of dietary health supplements rely on the Free-Radical theory to market their products. However, one needs to understand the working of the body in a better manner to prevent companies from taking advantage of our lack of knowledge. Free radical damage and antioxidants have their own effects, and large doses of the latter to counter the former can actually lead to devastating results, even mortality. A basic understanding of the theory, the effects, and the cure is outlined here.

Free radicals are molecules that exist in our bodies that have unpaired electrons in their outer shell. These free radicals become unstable because of the lack of an electron. To gain stability, they take an electron from the nearest molecule. This phenomenon destabilizes the second molecule, making it a free radical. Thus a chain reaction begins, which can lead to the disruption of a living cell. This damage is also related to oxidative stress, which is caused by the body’s lack of ability to repair reactive oxygen damage. The reactive oxygen produced in the body in the process of the metabolism of oxygen can cause damage to cell structures because reactive oxygen molecules are highly unstable.

In the 1950s, Denham Harman proposed the Free-Radical Theory, which establishes that our body ages because of this kind of free radical damage. Aging skin and bones among other things are a result of this damage. It has also been seen that free radical damage is related to cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis, and diabetes among other disorders.

Antioxidants have been observed to prevent free radical damage and therefore aging. Molecules of antioxidants donate one of their own electrons to the free radical, thus preventing the chain reaction that leads to cell disruption. This donation of an electron by the antioxidant does not make them unstable since they are stable in both forms. Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, and polyphenolic antioxidants are well-known antioxidants.

Vitamin A is found in a number of foods – carrots, broccoli, spinach, pumpkin, melon, papaya, mango, cheese, egg, butter and animal liver (chicken, beef, fish) among others.

Vitamin C is available in abundance in all citrus fruits like lemons and oranges as well as several other types of fruits such as grapes, berries, cherries, garlic, plums, blackcurrants, and guava.

Asparagus, wholegrain foods, avocado, nuts, milk, egg, and unheated vegetable oils are rich sources of Vitamin E.

Polyphenolic antioxidants are found in tea, coffee, red wine, chocolate, and oregano.

Recent studies on supplementation of antioxidants show that it has no particular effects and can decrease the body’s normal biological response to free radicals. Also, excessive antioxidants inhibit recovery after strenuous physical exercise and stress since they prevent free radicals from repairing damaged tissue. Simply put, it is best to have an antioxidant-rich diet, but not with health supplements. Trust nature and natural sources of antioxidants. Have your fruit and vegetables regularly.

This article was supplied by Nidhi Varma.

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