Free Radicals

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Free Radicals

A free radical is an atom or group of atoms containing at least one unpaired electron.

Electrons are negatively charged particles usually occurring in pairs, forming a chemically stable arrangement.

If an electron isn’t paired, another atom or molecule can easily bond with it, causing a chemical reaction.

Because they join so easily with other compounds, free radicals can effect dramatic changes in your body and can cause a lot of oxidative damage.

Each free radical may exist for only a tiny fraction of a second, but the damage it leaves behind can be irreversible, especially damage to heart muscle cells, nerve cells, and certain immune system cells.

Free radicals are normally present in your body in small numbers.

Oxygen-charged particles are created in your body as you breathe.

Diets rich in antioxidants can more than neutralize these particles.

Dietary supplements rich in antioxidants act in the same way.

Biochemical processes naturally lead to the formation of free radicals, and under normal circumstances your body can keep them in check.

But, not all free radicals are bad.

Free radicals made by your immune system destroy viruses and bacteria.

Other free radicals are involved in making vital hormones and activating enzymes needed for life.

We need free radicals to make energy and various substances your body needs.

If there’s too much free radical formation, however, damage to cells and tissues can occur.

The formation of a large number of free radicals stimulates the formation of more free radicals, leading to even more damage.

Many different factors can lead to an excess of free radicals.

Exposure to radiation, whether from the sun or small amounts from medical x-rays, activates the formation of free radicals, as does exposure to environmental pollutants like tobacco smoke and automobile exhaust.

Diet also can contribute to the formation of free radicals.

When your body gets nutrients through your diet, it uses oxygen and these nutrients to create energy.

In this process, oxygen molecules containing unpaired electrons are released.

These oxygen free radicals can cause damage to your body if made in extremely large amounts.

Being overweight or eating a diet high in fat can increase free radical activity because oxidation occurs easier in fat molecules than it does in carbohydrate or protein molecules.

Cooking fats at high temperatures, especially frying foods in oil, can create large numbers of free radicals.

The presence of a dangerous number of free radicals can change the way your cells code genetic material.

Changes in protein structure can occur as a result of errors in protein synthesis.

Your body’s immune system may then see this changed protein as a foreign substance and try to destroy it.

The formation of mutated proteins eventually damage your immune system and can lead to leukemia and other types of cancer, as well as to many other diseases.

In addition to damaging genetic material, free radicals can destroy protective cell membranes.

Calcium levels in your body may be upset as well.

Over time, your body makes more free radicals than it does scavengers.

This imbalance contributes to the aging process.

Substances known as antioxidants neutralize free radicals by binding to their free electrons.

Antioxidants available in supplement form include the enzymes superoxide dismutase and glutathione peroxidase; vitamin A, beta-carotene, and vitamins C and E; the minerals selenium and zinc; and the hormone melatonin.

By destroying free radicals, antioxidants help to detoxify and protect your body.

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Dick and Lenay

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