Antioxidants and free radicals
Antioxidants, scavenge for free radicals, and consequently are a very special group of nutritional supplements. They very special because they play such a very important role in protecting the body from the formation of very dangerous substances referred to as free radicals. Free radicals are important in asmuch as they have a strong tendency to impair the proper functioning of the immune system which leads to infections and a hoard of degenerative diseases including heart disease and cancer.
Free radicals are considered the unstable due to the existence of at least one unpaired electron. Electrons being negatively charged particles usually occur in pairs, and it is the pairing of the electrons that creates stability. Unpaired electrons facilitates other atoms or molecules to bond with it in a chemical reaction. It is the ease in which they bond to other atoms and molecules that creates the potential danger. The danger exists due to the significant probability that overtime the ability and tendency to bond to other atoms can actually create a new substance, which can cause great harm to the body. Even though free radicals tend to exist for a very short period of time in Microseconds, even in this short period of time they can do their damage.
Due to biochemical processes occurring in the body, it is normal for free radicals to be present in the body at all times. A normal healthy immune system is normally able to control the existence of free radicals and minimize their potential damage. It should be noted that not all free radicals are potentially dangerous. For example, the immune system creates valuable free radicals to control and destroy virus and bacteria. Other free radicals produce vital hormones. Indeed, we need free radicals in our everyday bodily functions.
However, when the presence of free radicals increases to an abnormal level the danger begins. The danger exists in the potential for genetic material in the form of code structure to be altered in a manner that is destructive to the related cell. For example, changes in proteins structure can occur as a result of proteins synthesis errors that can occur as a result of free radicals. The new and undesirable molecular structure is or often referred to as a mutation; due to the fact that the original molecular structure has been altered.
The precipitated factors involved with creating free radicals are numerous. They include exposure to radiation, the exposure to toxic environmental pollutants such as tobacco smoke. Other environmental chemical pollutants include pesticides; chemical compounds found around the home in products used everyday. Just read the labels on most containers of commercial chemical products founded the local grocery store and/or hardware store and a list of chemicals on the content label should be enough to scare a sensible person.
One of the more important sources of free radicals is actually a normal everyday diet, or what has become a normal everyday diet. Normal is not necessarily an indicator of proper, as normal merely indicates the widespread cultural tendencies regarding diet. The body in the process of obtaining nutrients through the diet, utilizes oxygen, and in this process oxygen molecules containing unpaired electrons are released into the body. This form of free radical has a particularly destructive tendency in the body. It’s tendency to create damage is due to the wide spread improper diet throughout the world especially what is considered in the western civilization. For instance, the diet high-end fat can increase free radical activity significantly because oxidation occurs readily in fat molecules whereas free radical activity in carbohydrates and/or proteins molecules occurs to a lesser degree. Cooking certain substances such as fat and a high temperature can produce large numbers of free radicals, which overwhelm the immune system shortly after intake of the food product. Cooking other fatty substances at temperatures at which the substance turns black, creates a particularly dangerous form of food product containing very high amounts of free radicals to roam the body creating havoc.
As an intervention, supplementing a diet with nutrients referred to as antioxidants (free radical scavengers) have a strong tendency to neutralize free radicals by binding to their free electrons. Therefore, ample supplementation of a diet with antioxidants especially in western civilization and more especially in that portion of our culture that survives daily on a poor diet, which is loaded with free radical producing substances, is extremely important. Unfortunately, those individuals are the very individuals who need a substantial intake of antioxidants the most. And it is these same individuals who are taking supplements of antioxidants the very least.
Antioxidants often referred to as free radical scavengers can be found in a number of important diet and supplement related compounds. For example there are four enzymes that have a strong tendency to neutralize free radicals including super oxide dismutase (SOD), Methionine reductase, catalase, and Glutathione peroxidase. These four enzymes are also essential enzymes, which the body makes on its own. However, the body often is unable to, for various reasons make sufficient quantities to control effectively the ravages all of free radical damage. There are a number of other nutritional substances, which also act as antioxidants. The substances include vitamin A, beta-carotene, vitamin C, and vitamin E as well as the mineral selenium. There are a number of other free radical scavengers, which we discussed individually in this section.
There are a three potential source is of antioxidants, those produced by the body, those derived from certain food substances, and those taken as nutritional supplements. As indicated, often times the body is unable to produce sufficient quantities of antioxidants on its own. Equally unfortunate is the case that sufficient quantities of antioxidants are seldom able to be derived from food intake. Consequently, it becomes very important for many individuals to supplement their diet with compounds containing abundant levels of antioxidants. Synergistically, the body, food intake, the intake of supplements, work together to ward off the deleterious affects all of free radicals.