When iron and steel are exposed to the elements for a long time, a process called oxidation begins to take effect. The metal takes on a brownish tint called rust, and if left unchecked the metal will begin to deteriorate and eventually fail. The word oxidation means something, not always metal, has reacted to the presence of oxygen. Free Radicals means oxygen molecules have lost an electron as they mingled with other molecules.
Our bodies have similar structures. These wounded defectors are now what we call free radicals. They are unstable oxygen molecules in our bodies, and they are very dangerous. In an effort to heal themselves these free radicals are constantly trying to steal electrons from healthy molecules, turning that previously healthy molecule into another free radical. So what’s the problem, the free radical that stole the electron is now a healthy molecule again, right ? Wrong ! Once a free radical is created there’s no going back.
So what does all this talk about free radicals and molecules got to do with us ? Whenever healthy molecules are exposed to oxygen, free radicals are produced. Cut an apple in half and leave it exposed to the open air. Come back in a day or two and the portion exposed will start to deteriorate and turn brown. That’s free radicals in the making.
We as individuals can feel the sting of the free radical because almost every element of our body is exposed to oxygen on a continuous basis. Research has shown that free radicals contribute to major illnesses such as the aging process, cancer, heart disease, arthritis and numerous other problems.
If you think free radicals are foreign invaders attacking our bodies, think again. Most free radicals are produced right inside our bodies. When the body generates energy, it also produces free radicals. White blood cells produce free radicals for the purpose of killing attacking micro-organisms and bacteria.
The problem is some of the healthy tissue in the body gets killed along with the invading bacteria. The reason we survive is ( if you remember your high school physics ) for every action, there is an opposite and equal reaction. Our body’s reaction to the free radical is the antioxidant. Antioxidants like Vitamin C, Vitamin E, and Beta Carotene stand between the free radicals and the body’s healthy molecules. Antioxidants protect healthy molecules by donating some of their electrons to the free radicals, thus eliminating the destructive potential of the free radicals. So even though the body creates free radicals, it also creates antioxidants to fight them.
Since food contains antioxidants and the body produces antioxidants the antioxidant to free radical ratio is 2 to 1 in favor of the antioxidants. To maintain that 2 to 1 advantage you need to keep your production of antioxidants at a high level by taking supplements and eating fresh organic foods that are rich in Vitamin C, Vitamin E, and beta carotene.
Free radicals come from outside the body also. Air pollution, tainted water, exhaust fumes, cigarette smoke, and pesticides are all external contributors to the formation of free radicals. The bodies of cigarette smokers are loaded with free radicals making it extremely difficult for antioxidants to maintain their 2 to 1 ratio.
And when antioxidant activity is surpassed by free radical activity, disease and other ailments find their way into the body. And to make things even worse because diseases and ailments are major producers of additional free radicals.
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