What Are Free Radicals and Why Are They Bad News?

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At the beginning of the 20th century, Chemist, Moses Gomberg first observed an organic free radical. But it wasn’t until more than 50 years later that the effects of free radicals on the human body were really understood. Today, extensive research provides insights into the characteristics, causes, and functions of free radicals.

What are Free Radicals?

Free radicals develop when an atom contains an unpaired electron. Free radicals are naturally formed by the body as by-products of metabolic processes. The immune system produces free radicals to consume viruses and bacteria via white blood cells. The liver also utilizes free radicals for detoxification. However, the body can also be bombarded with free radicals caused by air pollution, smoking, fried foods, and sun damage.

What are the Dangers of Free Radicals?

High concentrations of free radicals can damage cell membranes, proteins, and DNA which can lead to oxidative stress. Cancer, chronic inflammation, stroke and rheumatoid arthritis are just a few of the chronic diseases and conditions associated with oxidative stress caused by free radicals.

How to Reduce Free Radicals

Limit intake of alcohol and fried foods. Avoid cigarette smoke and other environmental pollutants found in the air and drinking water. Increase antioxidants to provide sufficient neutralization of free radicals.

Antioxidants, which are found in many food sources and also produced naturally within the body, provide a strong defense against oxidative stress and damage caused by free radicals. Antioxidants act as free radical scavengers by eliminating or neutralizing free radicals.

Sources of Antioxidants

Antioxidants are abundant in vegetables, fruits, herbs, and spices. Spinach, strawberries, blueberries clove, turmeric, cinnamon, and cocoa supply heavy concentrations of antioxidants. To ensure an adequate intake of antioxidants, consume at least five total servings of fruits and vegetables daily.

If you’re unlikely to consume sufficient fruits and vegetables, it may be worth considering a supplement. Many health supplements contain antioxidants and claim to fight free radicals. Glutathione, quercetin and vitamin E are popular antioxidant supplements.

Free radical damage is responsible for a myriad of health ailments. While it is not feasible or desirable to eliminate all free radicals, keeping free radical production in check is important for good health. Reduce environmental exposure to toxins and maintain an adequate supply of antioxidants with a healthy diet and supplements to combat free radical damage.

Sources

NCBI

Berkeley Wellness

ASEA

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