Free radicals, where do they come from?
Free radicals are highly unstable molecules that are naturally formed in the body all the time. Every activity that requires oxygen such as breathing, digesting, converting nutrients into energy and so on, produces free radicals through the oxidation phenomenon.
We generally think of them as aggressors that have a negative impact on our health. But it is a little bit more complex than that. Produced normally in our body, they are necessary to our health. They play a crucial part in several defense mechanisms against bacteria, viruses and cancer.
There also are external sources of free radicals such as pollution, cigarette smoke, and sunlight.
Thus, free radicals exist in our body at all time. They are kept harmless and under control thanks to the presence of antioxidants. Antioxidants are able to neutralize excessive free radicals, therefore creating a delicate balance between both entities. A disruption of this balance creates problems, leading to damage to our cells.
The free radical cascade
To put it in simple terms, a free radical is an incomplete molecule that is off-balance. In order to regain its balance it needs to "steel" an electron from another nearby molecule. It does so through a process called oxidation. The damaged molecule becomes a new unstable free radical in needs of an electron.
This chain reaction, or free radical cascade, is spreading more and more rapidly. It generates disorder within the molecules of our body.
Sometimes this phenomenon can gain momentum and get out of control. As we age, and if we do not get enough antioxidants, this is more likely to occur.
What causes too many free radicals?
This may result from a lack of antioxidants and/or an overproduction of free radicals:
Lack of antioxidants
If our diet does not contain enough antioxidants or if we are not handling our food properly, we may experience a deficit of antioxidants. For example, over-cooking our foods , boiling our vegetables (unless we also consume the cooking water, like in soups), and keeping produce for too long, can destroy a large number of antioxidants.
Overproduction of free radicals
Some factors will exaggerate the oxidation process therefore creating too many free radicals:
- chronic stress
- tobacco and alcohol
- UV radiation
- improper nutrition
- inflammatory and infectious diseases
- side effects from treatments such as chemotherapy, etc.
What is oxidative stress?
The excess of free radicals threatens our cells integrity. It oxidizes and damages some important cell components, such as membrane, proteins in the nucleus and even DNA. Once damaged, these cells cannot function normally anymore and die.
We call it oxidative stress. It can impact many of our organs such as kidneys, brain, lungs, eyes, skin, as well as our immune system, blood vessels and joints. Oxidative stress is involved in aging and many acute or chronic diseases, including:
- cardiovascular diseases
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Parkinson’s disease
- eye diseases such as cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.
It is crucial to understand how free radicals can affect our general health and what we can do to limit their impact on our body.
Next we will cover how to protect ourselves with antioxidants, through diet, health tips and high quality supplements such as our VISTASAFFRON. Each veggie caps of VISTASAFFRON for macular support, contains 7 different powerful antioxidants!