Oxidation and free
Free radicals are produced in the human body due to both natural
functions and environmental reasons. Normal cellular function in the
human body causes the formation of free radicals.
A radical is a molecule
with an unpaired electron. This gives the radical an electric
charge. In order to neutralize this charge, the molecule tries to
either give or steal an electron from a neighboring molecule. Once
it succeeds, the molecule that it has given an electron to or stolen
an electron from becomes a free radical. This process is needed by
the human body in a very controlled manner to attack and fight
disease and injury. However, an excess of this process results in
healthy molecules being attacked and it can cause harm to the body.
This chain reaction continues until something halts it.
Antioxidants can bring
this process under control. Some antioxidants are themselves free
radicals and they work by neutralizing the harm causing free
radicals. Other antioxidants work against the molecules, releasing
harmful free radicals and destroying them before a chain reaction.
An excess number of free radicals can cause damage by taking
molecules from proteins, lipids and DNA, making the cells they are
taken from vulnerable to disease. The body’s intake of free radicals
is increased when exposed to environmental pollutants like smoke,
dust and too much of sunlight.
Antioxidants from dietary sources supplement the function of
natural enzymes in the body, thus working against harmful free
radicals. Vitamin C is a very popular antioxidant. Some dietary
sources of vitamin C are strawberries, citrus fruits and sprouts. Beta-carotene is another disease fighter, which can be had from a
diet rich in orange colored fruits and vegetables and dark leafy
green vegetables. Vitamin E is also an antioxidant that strengthens
the immune system.
Ready to use food like
bread and cheese have antioxidant additives in them to prevent
spoilage. The addition amounts to less than one percent, but is
sufficient for giving the food a certain amount of shelf life. In
fact, as per rules all preserved food items come with a “best
before…” tag. Now you know what happens after the specified time is
over. The amount of harmful free radicals in the food item increases
and if ingested can cause harm to the body.
How the immune system
uses free radicals
When any part of the human body is
diseased or damaged, the body’s immune system sends an army of
disease fighting cells to the damaged part. The healing process that
takes place involves the release of free radicals by the fighter
cells to slowly outnumber and overpower the disease causing cells.
This is why most small cuts and bruises are best left to heal
naturally. What we generally do for small cuts and bruises is clean
the area thoroughly. By doing this, we are preventing the entry of
more harmful free radicals and making the job of the disease
fighting free radicals easy!