Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Antioxidants and the Oxygen Free Radical

If you want to understand the 'free radical' precisely, below is the explanation. Good health knowledge worth sharing. Information from John R. Pfeifer, M.D.Chairman, Medical Advisory Board. It's published in E-Club, Synergy Worldwide Malaysia.

To understand antioxidants, we must first understand the oxygen free radical.

A normal oxygen molecule has a proton nucleus with paired electrons orbiting around the nucleus. An oxygen free radical is an unstable oxygen molecule which results when one of the orbiting electrons is lost from orbit. On a global basis, when the oxygen is metabolized in the body, 2% of the oxygen molecules lose an orbiting electron. The loss of one electron from the pair of orbiting electrons crates electro magnetic instability which attracts another electron from an adjacent intact molecule.

The previously unstable molecule is now stable, but the molecule which suffered the loss of the stolen electron is now an unstable new free radical and it will capture still another electron. The original free radical which suffered an electron loss can create a chain reaction of 10,000 new free radicals. This unstable molecular environment, with rapid electron transfer (each in a billionth of a second) is called oxidation. Halliwell and Gutteridge’s textbook states that 100 diseases in the human body may occur from the oxidative process. For example, it may cause or accelerate cancer, arteriosclerosis and most of the degenerative diseases of the nervous system.

At the cellular level, oxygen is metabolized within the mitochondria to create cellular energy; this energy we know as life energy. Oxygen free radicals attack this most basic function. Since each new free radical creates a chain reaction of 10,000 free radicals and we have trillions of cells in the body, you do the math! The number is beyond our ability to compute, and the damage can negatively affect your health.

Dr. Ken Cooper (“The Antioxidant Revolution”) said, “No part of your body is sheltered from the destructive assaults of these molecular outlaws, which are known as free radicals. The bombardment that your system is sustaining every single day can be devastating. In fast, many experts believe that free radicals pose one of the greatest single threats to our public health, as we approach the brave new world of the 21st century.”

Dr. Cooper goes on to list the lethal enemies of your health and life. Research clearly shows the links between free radicals and the following:

1. Heart and blood vessel disease. Free radicals damage LDL, which then causes blood vessel obstruction by cholesterol plaques.
2. Cancer may be caused or accelerated.
3. Cataracts.
4. Premature aging may occur as free radicals attack DNA and longevity genes.
5. Nervous system, eg. Parkinson’s disease.

All free radicals are not harmful. The stable oxygen molecule is essential to sustaining life. Even some unstable oxygen molecules work to assist the body in fighting inflammation as they kill bacteria selectively. Stable oxygen molecules also control the tone of smooth muscle which regulates the function of internal organs and blood vessels.

The key to the effective and safe operation of certain types of free radicals is balance. These delicately balanced mechanisms frequently get out of balance because of new excess free radicals. To correct imbalance, the human body produces free radical scavengers known as endogenous (internal) antioxidants which can neutralize extra free radicals and help prevent damage in the body. There are also exogenous (external) antioxidants taken in from outside of the body to bolster our defenses against excessive numbers of free radicals.

These exogenous antioxidants include Vitamin C, Vitamin E and betacarotene. More recently, powerful antioxidants called bioflavonoids were found in brightly colored fruits and vegetables. Bioflavonoids are the most powerful antioxidants yet discovered.

We initially viewed these individual antioxidants as if they functioned alone. They do not! In fact, we now know that many antioxidants function synergistically and become much more powerful in neutralizing free radicals when they work together.

First, the free radical is engulfed by the antioxidant and begins the neutralization of the free radical. In so doing, the attacking antioxidant itself becomes a weak free radical. This complex is then engulfed by yet another antioxidant to complete the detoxification of the free radicals which may require several antioxidants to complete the process.

Our water is a toxic world, with polluted air and water. A great deal of the success in neutralizing free radicals is to recognize the myriad of external toxins which we are exposed to daily: you must go beyond the additive antioxidants, modify your environment and diet and exercise to give nature its best chance to protect you.

Above all, also avoid the worst of the external toxins:

1. Tobacco. It is the most deadly of all toxins.
2. Alcohol. As your nervous system is a key attack point for free radicals, minimize your exposure to alcohol. It destroys nerve cells and they cannot regenerate.
3. Obesity. This is a deadly toxin all by itself.
4. Not exercising. Exercising is one of the best protectors of your health.

It is your world and your body! Take your antioxidants every day (twice a day) and protect yourself from your toxic environment with good habits.