Nutrition Intelligence – Free Radicals & Antioxidants – Part 4

Antioxidants have become part of our vocabulary in the last 10 years. Before that they were little known, understood or appreciated. Even today you will find pockets of people who do not believe in the benefits. Oh well, their loss!

To fully understand the role of antioxidants you need to know about free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules which “steal” parts of our cells to stabilize themselves. This means our cells become damaged:-

  • Free radicals damage cell membranes and disrupt their function in transporting nutrients, water and oxygen into your cells and in removing wastes from the cell. Cellular function becomes sluggish.
  • Our cells genetic material can be damaged, causing the cell’s ability to replenish and repair itself to be impaired.
  • Your immune cells can be attacked, rendering them incapable of defending your body from infections.
  • Free radicals also oxidize LDL (Bad cholesterol) causing arteriosclerosis (narrowing of the arteries).
  • Oxidization of proteins and lipids in the body cause a build up of lipofuscin. Accumulations of lipofuscin can accelerate the aging process and damage your organs. Lipofuscin can be observed in the form of visible age spots.
  • Free radicals are also the cause of AGE – Advanced Glycation End-Products – The accumulation of AGE is the main cause of visible premature aging, like wrinkles and brown spots on the skin.

Sources of free radicals are:-

  • Normal bodily functions, like breathing and energy production
  • Toxins from environmental pollution in the air, water, cooking processes and our food
  • Electro magnetic radiation – from TV, computers, ovens, refrigerators and other electrical equipment.
  • UV radiation – from sunlight and fluorescent lamps.
  • Stress factors, like work stress, infections, trauma. Aging itself accelerates the body’s production of Free Radicals.

Since, it’s very difficult to avoid most of the factors which generate free radicals our only option is to ensure we get a regular supply of antioxidants to minimize their effects.

Symptoms of free radical damage are:-

  • Premature aging signs such as age spots, wrinkles, sagging of the skin
  • Degenerative diseases such as arthritis, cardiovascular problems, diabetes, cancer, vision problems, cataracts etc.

Antioxidants are compounds found in nature (food) which disarm free radicals in your body. They are a complex group of vitamins, minerals, enzymes, phyto-nutrients, and phyto-chemicals that help protect your body from free radical damage.