Copyright 2006 Marc David
Let’s face it …
You’ve probably heard about free radicals before and you might have just assumed it was a bunch of B.S. But have you ever wondered exactly what are free radials, what can cause them and how you can combat the effects?
If you’ve heard about them but were curious as the natural of them, you’ll be interested in this article.
What Are Free Radicals?:
An atom or group of atoms that has at least one unpaired electron and is therefore unstable and highly reactive. In animal tissues, free radicals can damage cells and are believed to accelerate the progression of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and age-related diseases.
What Can Cause Them?:
External Factors –
* Food (ingested substances, preparation, pesticides)
* Pollutants in the air (chemicals in the area)
* Excessive amounts of sunlight
Internal Factors –
* Immune system
* Energy production (exercise)
* Many other chemical reactions in the body
* Body’s own out of control production (just as damaging as external factors)
What Diseases Are Linked To Them?:
* Arteriosclerosis, atherosclerosis.
* Heart disease.
* Cerebrovascular disease.
* Emphysema (Cross et al 1987).
* Diabetes mellitus (Sato et al 1979).
* Rheumatoid arthritis (Cross et al 1987, Greenwald & Moy 1979, 1980, Halliwell 1981, 1989, Del Maestro et al 1982, Fligiel et al 1984).
* Osteoporosis (Hooper 1989, Stringer et al 1989).
* Cataracts (Niwa & Hansen, 1989, Yagi 1977).
* Crohn’s disease (Niwa & Hansen 1989).
* Behcet’s disease
Benefits of Free Radicals:
* Essential role in the human body’s defense
* Virus and bacteria are showered with a type of toxic shower when the body intentionally produces free radicals as part of its immune defense systems to destroy invaders
Antioxidant “Free Radical” Prevention Methods:
* Natural enzymes
* Nutrients (vitamins A, C, E primary antioxidants)
What You Can Do To Prevent Free Radical Damage:
* Vitamin and mineral supplementation
* Steer clear of heavy processed foods
* Diet high in fruits and vegetables
* Black beans
* Black plums
* Gala apples
* Granny Smith apples
* Pinto beans
* Red beans
* Red Delicious apples
* Red kidney beans
* Russet potatoes
* Sweet cherries
* Wild blueberries
It seems like free radicals are discussed a lot when it comes to exercising only because the more you exercise, the more free radicals you will have because of energy production. That’s not entirely a bad thing. The name “free radical” sounds very negative but it’s there for a purpose as well, primary as a defense system. Of course, it can go out of control as well.
Monitoring the levels of free radicals is difficult to measure.
Vitamins A, C and E are the primary nutrients to prevent free radical damage.
Most will recommend a diet high in fruits and vegetables to obtain natural antioxidant sources but vitamin supplementation is also recommended. There’s enough evidence to suggest that food processing today has taken out some of the nutritional values. True or not, if you eat correctly AND supplement responsibly, you should be covered per the recommendations.
Marathon runners or high altitude running may require more Vitamin E 10-14 days before a run because of the extra long term stress and energy production.
If you stick to a good basic diet with fruits and vegetables and take a good vitamin supplement, you should be well protected against excess free radical damage without interfering with the body’s own ability to defend itself.