What are free radicals?
You must be wondering what free radicals are and why are they so damaging to our bodies. Free radicals are associated with human disease, including cancer, atherosclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and many others. They also may have a link to aging, which has been defined as a gradual accumulation of free-radical damage.
Free radicals, also known simply as radicals, are organic molecules responsible for aging, tissue damage, and possibly some diseases. These molecules are very unstable, therefore they look to bond with other molecules, destroying their health and further continuing the damaging process. Antioxidants, present in many foods, are molecules that prevent free radicals from harming healthy tissue.
According to Rice University, once free radicals are formed, a chain reaction can occur. The first free radical pulls an electron from a molecule, which destabilizes the molecule and turns it into a free radical. That molecule then takes an electron from another molecule, destabilizing it and tuning it into a free radical. This domino effect can eventually disrupt and damage the whole cell.
The free radical chain reaction may lead to broken cell membranes, which can alter what enters and exits the cell, according to the Harvard School of Public Health. The chain reaction may change the structure of a lipid, making it more likely to become trapped in an artery. The damaged molecules may mutate and grow tumors. Or, the cascading damage may change DNA code.
Oxidative stress occurs when there are too many free radicals and too much cellular damage. Oxidative stress is associated with damage of proteins, lipids and nucleic acids, according to an article in the Pharmacognosy Review. Several studies throughout the last few decades have suggested that oxidative stress plays a role in the development of many conditions, including macular degeneration, cardiovascular disease, certain cancers, emphysema, alcoholism, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, ulcers and all inflammatory diseases, such as arthritis and lupus
Where do free radicals come from?
Internal sources are the processes of metabolic acidosis, triggered in the body due to prolonged stress and accumulation of persistent negative emotions.
External sources include nuclear radiation, X-rays and microwaves, toxic metals such as aluminum and cadmium in drinking water, iron (consumed too much), smog, chemical food additives, cigarette smoke, exhaust gases (especially lead compounds) and, perhaps the most significant, hydrogenated vegetable oils, ever-present in usual products such as margarine.
These artificial fats oxidize the moment they come into contact with air and continue this process inside the body, causing a chain of mutilation reactions on the molecular level, that damage cells and vital functions with a higher speed than that of the body’s defense capacity. All substances listed above produce free radicals when oxidized (combined with oxygen) and broken down.