Free Radicals & Oxidative Stress

by Heather Ferber on March 20, 2011

Often times, it’s great to have someone or something to blame when things are not going our way and we are not getting exactly what we want.  Well, I’m tired of going through the aging process.  As I get closer to 40, I am paying more and more attention on how to reverse the aging process!  Thankfully, I have found something to blame for my graying hair, crows feet wrinkles, cottage cheesy thighs, sun spots and more – free radicals and oxidative stress.

Free radical waste products lead to skin damage and the weakening of cellular structures. Think of an apple cut in half. Within a few minutes it begins to turn brown; in two hours it’s mostly brown and a bit mushy; and within eight hours it’s completely brown and completely mushy – yuck!   An apple shows very clear signs of oxidation and the damage that can be done during this process.  Free radicals do help our bodies generate energy and fight infection; however, too many free radicals attack our healthy cells causing them to age prematurely.

Sources of free radicals are: the aging process, ultraviolet rays, x-rays, cigarette smoke, environmental pesticides and pollution, chemicals in water, cellular energy production (exercise), fried/grilled/broiled/browned food, chemicals in food (i.e. preservatives) and stress.  If you have not been exposed to several of those free radical sources, you are probably not alive! And what do the free radicals do in our body?  They act like terrorists – nicking arterial walls; causing LDL cholesterol to oxidize; triggering foam cell formation; pitting the cartilage within our joints; impairing the immune system creating vulnerability to infection; elevating blood pressure; and impairing brain function.

The medical community is beginning to realize that many diseases start with the process of inflammation that is a result of oxidative stress and free radical damage.  Some of these diseases include: allergies, alzheimer’s, arthritis, asmtha, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, immune disease and the list goes on and on.   So how do we silence the free radicals in our body?  By adding antioxidants to our systems.

Antioxidants silence free radicals by donating electrons to molecules that are unstable or reactive. Antioxidants react with free radicals so the free radicals cannot react with our body.  In a way, antioxidants help prevent internal rusting (or browning like the apple). Antioxidants reduce internal oxidative stress.  Common antioxidants include beta carotene; Vitamins A, E, and C; selenium; and folate.  Other antioxidants include OPC’s, ORAC, Acai, resveratrol, Coenzyme Q-10, curcumin and synergistic blends of a variety of these agents.

Fruits and vegetables are great sources of antioxidants. The more colorful the fruit or vegetable, the more powerful it is as an electron donor and its ability to silence free radicals.  OPC’s (oligomeric proanthocyanidins) are considered the most powerful of all antioxidants.  Stay tuned to learn more about OPC’s as well as some of the other antioxidants mentioned above….stay tuned to learn more about my battle with aging!

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