Free radicals are formed when weak bonds split leaving an unpaired electron. Free radicals are unstable and therefore react unpredictably, they also react with other compounds to try and capture the needed electron to become more stable. Free radicals therefore commonly attack the closest stable molecule to steal its electron, which in turn makes the molecule that loses its electron a free radical and starts the whole stealing process over again. Sooner or later the process of free radical stealing electrons will result in a living cell being disturbed.
Free radicals normally happen during a person’s normal metabolism process, however in some cases the immune system may create free radicals in order to neutralize bacteria or viruses. Environmental factors such as pollution, herbicides, cigarette smoke, and other outside substances can also sometimes cause free radicals.
Normally a person’s body can handle free radicals with normal antioxidant consumption, but if a person doesn’t consume enough antioxidants or there are excessive free radicals molecules and cell damage can occur. Free radical damage most commonly occurs with age.
Vitamin C and E, are two vitamins that are believed to protect the body from the adverse effects of free radical damage. Antioxidants neutralize free radicals by giving the free radicals one of their own electrons which puts an end to the destruction process of other cells. The antioxidants thereby help to prevent cell and tissue damage. Vitamin E is the most abundant antioxidant in the body and the most efficient cell and tissue damage repairing antioxidant that is available. It is also the best antioxidant against oxidation in the body and against lipid peroxidation.
Vitamin C is an antioxidant that acts primarily in cellular fluid. It combats free-radical formation caused by environmental sources and also assists vitamin E in the body.
Antioxidants protect the body from free radical damage, however normal antioxidant amounts is all a person needs. Medical studies have not been performed on the effects of taking an over abundance of vitamins and antioxidants and therefore it is best to never over do any medication even vitamins because of possible adverse reactions. Maintaining a good healthy diet is a sufficient means of getting a good balance of the necessary nutrients and antioxidants needed for combating free radical damage.
Some foods that are high in antioxidants are pomegranates, grapes, berries of almost any kind especially blueberries and many types of nuts including roasted peanuts. I’ve been a nurse for a long time and while everyone including myself may struggle with growing older, it is always important to remember that following a healthy diet is the best way to combat many health issues including any skin, cell and tissue damage caused by free radicals.
References for this article include: www.physics.ohio-state.edu/~wilkins/writing/Samples/shortmed/nelson/radicals.html