Free radicals damage and the role of Antioxidants.
Free radicals are molecules with one or more unpaired electrons. They are a by-product of a normal bodily process involving the metabolism of oxygen for energy. Environmental factors such as cigarette smoke, air pollution, radiation and ultraviolet light can also cause free radicals to form.
Because free radicals lack an electron, they are unstable and highly reactive. As a result of their instability they steal electrons from other cells. This in turn destabilizes those cells, turning them into free radicals. This can cause a chain reaction which can occur indefinitely, causing destruction to the body as cellular damage accumulates.
Free radicals enter our bodies as we breathe in polluted air and cigarette smoke, and are generated during prolonged stress or illness and through every metabolic reaction involving oxygen. When oxygen molecules become unstable they seek to stabilise by reacting with other chemicals. If left unchecked, this leads to inflammation and arterial wall damage.
This sort of damage is the number-one cause of ageing and a significant contributor to diseases in those aged 60 or over.
Defence of the Immune System – Antioxidants
One of the best ways our body deals with attacks on the immune system is with its own natural antioxidants. When a virus or pollutant enters the body these antioxidants work by attacking them to stop them damaging the body. As the name suggests they do ‘anti’ or the opposite job to the attackers.
Our bodies contain natural antioxidants in the form of vitamins, minerals and hormones, but due to the increased stress modern society puts on us it can be good to take in more in our diet.
Antioxidants are natural substances that may slow or prevent damage to the body’s cells. They are thought to protect the cells from these unstable molecules by reacting with them .
Antioxidants prevent free radicals from damaging cells by donating electrons to the free radicals, thereby stabilizing them. When an antioxidant loses an electron, it remains stable and thus does not itself become a free radical. Therefore, a diet rich in antioxidants could be beneficial to health. A study by Abjua et al (1998) conducted in vitro demonstrated antioxidant activity of elderberry juice.
Studies throughout the last 30 years reveal that many of the so-called degenerative diseases such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s and arthritis arise because of a deficiency in antioxidants