How they can cause you to age faster and develop degenerative diseases
What is a Free Radical?
The human body is made up of cells and cells are made up of atoms. Each atom has a nucleus surrounded by a cloud of electrons in pairs. In the event that an atom loses an electron, leaving it with an "unpaired electron", the atom becomes a "free radical". Free radicals are very reactive. When other stable atoms in the cell encounter a free radical, a chain reaction begins, which leads to cellular damage. The free radical either steals the electron it needs from the stable atom or deposits its extra electron to it. This can initiate thousands of chain reactions within seconds in every cell of the body. However, this chain reaction can be deactivated by restoring the electron pairings. According to Dr. Dennis Harmon's free radical theory of aging, the body continuously produces free radicals, and constant free radical damage eventually kills cells.
Free radicals oxidize just about anything they see available. They may damage cell membranes, DNA, and enzymes. This process of cell oxidation happens about 10,000 times every day for each of the trillion cells in the body. When this free radical reaction damages enough cells in the body, diseases begin to develop and the aging process accelerates.
How are Free Radicals Produced?
A free radical is generated as the body performs its metabolic processes to produce energy. The process of converting food and oxygen into energy is called metabolism. During metabolism, some electrons may escape and free radicals are produced. As the free radicals increase in number, they cause oxidative stress, which is among the primary causes of aging and degenerative diseases.
Though free radicals are known for its negative effects in the body, they are also essential for survival. They play important roles in some body functions including controlling blood flow, fighting infections, and even killing cancer cells. It is a wrong notion that the body needs to eliminate these highly reactive particles. Free radicals just have to be kept under control. It is only when they get too many and start attacking healthy cells, which causes the cells to age prematurely, that they become harmful.
Aside from the normal metabolism of the body which produces free radicals, external factors can elevate free radical production. Stress, in different forms, can increase free radical reaction such as the following:
4.processed foods and food additives
7.ultraviolet radiation from the sun
9.environmental toxins and pollution
Greater Risks: Heavy Metals in the Body Multiplies Free Radicals
Heavy metals in the body multiply free radicals chain reactions several million times than usual. When free radicals encounter a metal atom in the body, they increase in activity and quantity. The effect is multiplied many-fold. This explains the importance of chelation, the removal of toxic metals from the body. When the toxic metals are removed, both the activity and the number of free radicals in the body are also reduced.
Environmental toxins and pollution largely contribute to free radical problems. The toxicity of lead, ionizing radiation, pesticides, cadmium, alcohol, and cigarette smoke may be attributed to their ability to magnify free radical reactions.
Link between Heart Disease and Free Radicals
The belief that dietary cholesterol increases the amount of cholesterol in your bloodstream is further questioned nowadays and is now regarded as a traditional view. The same situation applies to the belief that cholesterol attracts particles of calcium to float along in the blood stream. There had been some reports saying that fewer and fewer researchers believe that high levels of fat or cholesterol in the diet are the primary cause of heart disease. Recent researches report that the actual cause of heart disease is the damage done by free radicals to individual cells within the arteries. More so, free radical damage cannot be prevented or cured by any drugs. But instead, most drugs are even sources of more free radicals in the body.
The Role of Antioxidants
To combat the free radical chain reaction effect, the body needs antioxidants. Antioxidants are molecules capable of inhibiting the oxidation of other molecules by giving an electron to the free radicals but still remaining stable themselves. They prevent cellular damage, which is the pathway for aging, cancer, and a variety of diseases. Most common antioxidants include glutathione peroxidase, catalase, and superoxide dismutase. Vitamin C, vitamin E, and A, beta carotene, coenzyme Q10, and many medicinal plants offer multitudes of antioxidants that are effective free radical scavengers.
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