Free radicals can be a slippery/complicated subject to discuss, so I am going to attempt to make this painless and simple to understand. Free radicals are unstable (because they need another electron). To stabilize themselves, they attack the closest stable molecule and ‘steal’ its electron. Now this molecule is one electron down and unstable, thus becoming a free radical. This starts a chain reaction, until it finally disrupts the living cell-injuring it, damaging DNA, and eventually leading to disease. When the DNA is changed the cells become mutated, so they grow and reproduce abnormally. Over time the frequent free radical attacks initiates chronic diseases:
- heart disease
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Parkinson’s disease
Air and some of the food we eat are laden with toxins and heavy metals, which create more free radicals; to an already compromised immune system damaged by the psychological and physical stress created by modern society. Worst of all is cigarette smoke- which is a huge source of free radicals. Excessive amounts of alcohol also trigger production of free radicals (two reasons to quit smoking and drinking-it decreases your life and leads to a premature death because you’ve exposed your body to free radicals and it attacks itself). Normal cell functions produce a small number of free radicals, which are taken care of by antioxidants that the body produces naturally. But with the toxins and metals that are abundant, nowadays, antioxidant consumption is important. Antioxidants work to neutralize the free radicals. There are different types of antioxidants:
- vitamin C
- vitamin E
These act in various ways to stabilize the free radicals. For instance, vitamin C stops the chain reaction before it starts, whereas Vitamin E is a chain-breaking antioxidant. I’ll look over antioxidants more another time; main way to get a myriad of antioxidants is to consume a variety of fruits and vegetables. Bottom line of today’s post: consume lots of fruits and veggies to neutralize free radicals and prevent disease and premature aging.