Friday, March 13, 2009

Free Radicals, Antioxidants and Your Health

What are free radicals?

Free radicals mean any atom or molecule that has one or more unpaired electrons. Electrons are normally paired up for stability; hence the molecule with an unpaired electron is highly unstable. Free radicals are formed on the interaction of oxygen with certain molecules in our body. When they are formed they begin a chain reaction and react with important cellular components such as the cell membranes or DNA to cause cells to function poorly or die. Other sources of free radicals are from air pollution, cigarette smoke, alcoholic beverages, ultra violet light, and stress. In order to stop the invasion of free radicals our body has a defense system of antioxidants

What are antioxidants?

Antioxidants neutralize free radicals by supplying missing electron or removing an extra one to restore stability. In our body we have our own antioxidant enzymes but the important micronutrient antioxidants are vitamin E, beta-carotene and vitamin C. In addition, selenium, a trace metal, is needed for the formation of the enzyme glutathione in the defense against free radicals. These micronutrients cannot be manufactured by our body; we need to have a balanced diet to obtain these vitamins

Exercise and free radicals

When you exercise, your oxygen intake increases by 10 to 20 times over the resting state. This greatly increases the amount of free radicals. However, regular physical exercise promotes the antioxidant defense system and protects against free radicals induced by exercise. On the other hand, vigorous exercise, once in while, induces damage to antioxidant defenses resulting in increased free radical damage.

What can you do?

• Eat more fresh vegetables and fruits
• Exercise more frequently ( a few times in a week) but less intensely
• Avoid polluted environment like smoking areas
• control your stress
• Avoid alcoholic beverages
• Give up smoking

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