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The Killer Free Radicals And The Savior Antioxidants

Updated: Apr 12

There are more reasons to eat healthy than to just lose weight when one goes on a "diet". A very important reason should be to keep diseases at bay. And that only happens when you make a habit of eating well not just for a few months with the goal to look good or fit into some desired clothes but as a consistent habit.

And sometimes the so-called diet you are on might not even be that healthy. It might become the cause of severe deficiencies.

In today’s times, you would have heard a lot about free radicals and how they damage our bodies. One of the side effects of not eating in a balanced manner is the body becoming deficient in antioxidants.

What are free radicals?

Free radicals are atoms or groups of atoms that are formed by losing an electron after reacting with oxygen or nitrogen inside the body. These atoms become highly unstable after they lose the electron and then they try to destabilize the normal cells by taking their electrons. Once formed these highly reactive radicals can start a chain reaction, like dominoes affecting more cells quickly. There are both external and internal sources of free radicals.

External sources of free radicals:

Air and water pollution, alcohol, tobacco smoke, heavy metals, transition metals, industrial solvents, pesticides, certain drugs like halothane, paracetamol, radiation, cooking (smoked meat, used oil, fat), ultraviolet light.


The damage

Their chief danger comes from the damage they can do when they react with important cellular components such as DNA, or the cell membrane. Our body cells may function poorly or may even die if they react with free radicals.

Free Radicals And Ageing Of Cells

As per the free radical theory of aging, as we age our body goes through a high level of stress as a result of the oxidative damage that the normal cells have undergone by interacting with the free radicals over years.

This stress and damage that the cells got through is the cause of many problems including ageing. The other problems include: …..diabetes mellitus …… neurodegenerative disorders (Parkinson’s disease-PD, Alzheimer’s disease) …….multiple sclerosis ……. respiratory diseases (asthma) …….rheumatoid arthritis ……. various cancers (colorectal, prostate, breast, lung, bladder cancers) …….. atherosclerosis and heart disease …….cell transformation and cancer, all kinds of inflammatory conditions, …….eye problems, such as cataracts and macular degeneration

This should give you an idea about how disease can come from any direction or any source, especially in today’s living conditions where there are so many external sources of free radicals around us.

Body’s response to Free Radicals

The body’s response to all this is to unleash a grand defense mechanism, using antioxidant molecules (good) against the free radicals (bad). Antioxidants give the free radicals the extra electron to stabilize it and stop it’s mass destruction in the body. Sometimes, however, the body cannot produce enough antioxidants for the task. The result is that free radicals destroy the body’s proteins, fats, and DNA/RNA. This damage is the starting point of all diseases mentioned above. So we always need antioxidants in excess of the free radicals being produced from unknown sources at any given time. And for that, we need optimal cellular nutrition which gives the human body all the essential calories, amino acids, fatty acids, minerals, and vitamins that are essential for antioxidant production.

The Solution

Although there are several enzyme systems within the body that scavenge or kill free radicals, the principal micronutrient (vitamin) antioxidants are: ……. Vitamin E …….Beta-carotene ……. Vitamin C …….Selenium is a trace metal that is required for the proper function of one of the body’s antioxidant enzyme systems. …….. antioxidant supplements and their relation to disease prevention is questionable.

The Best Advice

Perhaps the best and evergreen advice, (which actually comes from several authorities in cancer prevention) is to eat 5 servings of fruit or vegetables per day. There can never be a question raised on that approach. To sum it all, never compromise health for any fads. The fads will come and go but the damage they might cause may be quite significant and irreversible.

It is impossible to keep eating for each and every deficiency or disease separately, but it is very possible to develop a system, a habit, or a lifestyle to eat a variety and eat healthy on a daily basis which will make sure that you get a good dose of all macro and micronutrients through food. Learn to develop an awareness of what your body needs and when.

Connect with me if you need to polish your own lifestyle for a balanced, productive and healthy life.

Disclaimer - All images have been picked up from the public domain for depiction purposes only.

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