Understanding Antioxidants and Free Radicals
Antioxidants are natural substances found in plants, which help strengthen cells and therefore prevent disease, boost immunity, slow aging and improve overall health. If you are already familiar with the scientific basis of antioxidants, that is impressive. But if you’ve always found free radicals and antioxidants confusing, read on.
Cells, like everything else, are composed of many different types of molecules, and molecules are made up of one or more atoms of one or more basic elements (like carbon, oxygen, etc). They are joined by chemical bonds. As you might know from high school science, atoms have a nucleus (centre), neutrons (electrically neutral particles), protons (positively charged particles) and electrons (negatively charged particles). The number of protons in an atom’s nucleus determines the number of electrons (negatively charged particles) you will find surrounding the atom. Electrons are involved in chemical reactions and they hold atoms together to form molecules. Electrons surround, or “orbit” an atom in one or more “shells”.
The innermost shell is full when it has two electrons. When the first shell is full, electrons begin to fill the second shell. When the second shell has eight electrons, it is full, and so on. The number of electrons in an atom’s outer shell is key to its chemical behavior.
If it has a full outer shell, it will not usually react chemically with other substances - it is stable or “inert”. Atoms “want” to be stable and they will try to fill the outer shell with electrons by:
- gaining or losing electrons to fill or empty the outer shell
- sharing electrons by bonding together with other atoms (forming new molecules).
The number of electrons gained or lost is unique for each element, and this number determines how many different types of chemical bonds atoms of that element can form.
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How Free Radicals are Formed
Normally, the bonds between electrons don’t split and leave a molecule with an unpaired electron, but when bonds are weak it can happen and they do split. That’s when free radicals are formed. Free radicals are very unstable and react quickly with other compounds, trying to capture the needed electron to gain stability. Generally, free radicals attack the nearest stable molecule, “stealing” an electron from it. When the “attacked” molecule loses its electron, it becomes a free radical, and a chain reaction begins that can damage living cells.
Some free radicals are necessary for life and some are created during normal metabolism. Sometimes our immune system creates free radicals on purpose to neutralize viruses and bacteria. Lifestyle and environmental factors, such as pollution, radiation, smoke, herbicides and pesticides can also cause the formation of free radicals.
Astaxanthin: The Little-Known Miracle Nutrient for Inflammation, Anti-Aging, Athletic Endurance and More
Tuesday, May 06, 2008
by Mike Adams, the Health Ranger
Editor of NaturalNews.com (See all articles...)
(Natural News) Every once in a very great while, I discover a natural medicine so astonishing that I feel compelled to share it with you. The verb "discover" is actually not to my credit, by the way; Mother Nature created this natural medicine eons ago, and it's been present in trace amounts in aquatic ecosystems for over a billion years. In this article, I'm going to reveal the name of this natural medicine, what health benefits it provides to us, and how to get some right now. But first, before revealing the name, I want to share some of the numerous health benefits with you so you get the full picture of just how significant this substance can be in enhancing your health. As always, I have absolutely no financial ties to this product, and I earn nothing if you choose to purchase it. I do, however, buy and consume this product myself on a regular basis, as you'll see below.
Did you ever notice how the drug companies get excited when they find a drug that just slightly alters the risk of a single disease? I remember hearing all the hype about a particular cancer drug made by Big Pharma. It was called a "miracle" drug that needed to be fast-tracked so it could start saving lives. When I looked at the research, however, it only turned out to prevent cancer in one woman out of two hundred (a 0.5% reduction in the risk of breast cancer). Gee, that's not much get excited about. And yet they called it a "miracle" drug!
Well imagine if there were a natural substance that operated at many different biochemical levels at once, providing all the following health benefits (yes, from a single source!):
• Reduces proliferation of breast cancer tumor cells by 40%
• Protects the brain from dementia and Alzheimer's
• Greatly reduces inflammation and joint pain
• Reduces oxidative damage to your DNA by 40% (even at low doses)
• Greatly increases endurance, muscle recovery and workout performance
• Reduces the risk of cancer
• Reduces blood sugar level in diabetics and pre diabetics
• Improves fertility while decreasing the rate of stillborn births
• Promotes cardiovascular health, reduces C-Reactive Proteins (CRP)
• Reduces or eliminates carpal tunnel syndrome
• Boosts immune function and helps the body resist infections
• Protects the stomach from ulcers and invasive bacteria
• Protects the kidneys from damage due to high blood sugar
• Causes cancer cells to commit suicide (apoptosis)
• Greatly improves sperm quality, motility, and sperm count
• Prevents asthma by normalizing histamine levels
• Protects the body from highly oxidative foods like fried foods
In addition, I've found that this natural medicine:
• Greatly protects eye health, reduces cataracts and prevents UV damage to the eyes
The Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity, or ORAC value of foods, is a measurement of antioxidant levels. The higher the ORAC value, the more antioxidant power a food has. Berry ORAC values top those of many other fruits and vegetables, including oranges, grapefruit, cherries, plums, Brussels sprouts, broccoli and spinach. Blueberries, with an ORAC value of 5,486, have one of the highest antioxidant levels. Right behind are blackberries with an ORAC value of 4,654; strawberries at 3,520 and raspberries, 2,789.
Free radical damage accumulates with age and is thought to be a major factor in age-related diseases, conditions and in the speed of aging itself.
Fresh berries, berry extracts and juices are excellent sources of antioxidant nutrients.