Many free radicals are very harmful. Free radicals are unstable atoms with one electron rather than the normal two. As a result they grab an electron from a neighbouring atom in the body. This can result in a chain reaction attacking DNA and causing, amongst other things, mutation and cancer. Worse for those of us, who are vain, free radicals can accelerate ageing and degenerative diseases related to ageing.
There are many sources of free radicals. The most obvious is smoking, which adds cadmium to the free radicals it releases into the blood. Clearly passive inhalation of smoke, or other fumes, can have a similar affect. Other causes are eating oxidized food (‘oxidization’ is the key word here), trans fats, high sugar intake, absorption of heavy metal toxins, radiation, some drugs, excessive stress (probably) and chronic infection.
To keep the free radicals under control our body utilizes specific enzymes (e.g. CoQ10) and free-radical scavengers such as vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene and selenium based products. Some of these free-radical scavengers will be found in a good nutritional diet containing fresh fruit, but supplementation is vital for most of us. The most important anti-oxidant of all is of course Arginine Derived Nitric Oxide, which has a spare electron just waiting to zap those free radicals.
I was prompted to write this article by a posting on LinkedIn’s Health, Fitness, Nutrition Anti-aging Tools and Secrets Group (please feel free to LinkIn to me). In that posting, Jeff Behar, rightly makes two very important points: some free radicals are very harmful, and anti-oxidants are key to combating them. Having made this acknowledgement my comment on LinkedIn continued:
“I was, however, troubled by the sentence, “An example of how free radicals can impact our body is when they produce LDL (low-density lipoprotein), also called “bad cholesterol”. Free radicals do not produce LDL, which is vital to our health and wellbeing. The false “cholesterol theory”, which characterizes LDL as ‘bad’, still dominates orthodox medical thinking and underlies the lucrative boom in statin drugs. What free radicals do is to damage the endothelium, in particular, by contributing to the oxidization of LDL within the walls of the arteries. LDL is ‘good’, but oxidized LDL is ‘bad’.
“Vitamins C and E, and beta-carotene are very important, but also coenzyme Q10 and many benefit from other supplements, such as niacin and D-ribose. The nonpareil is, of course, L-arginine, which is why work on it won the Nobel Prize (see for instance “NO More Heart Disease”, by Dr Ignarro, one of the laureates).
“Undoubtedly a good diet is a necessary first step, while bad nutrition is the root of all evil. It is just possible to achieve a perfect diet. I once met an elderly gamekeeper who had lived on game meat and his own fresh vegetables. For almost all of us, though, anti-oxidant supplementation is a must.”