How Free Radicals Damage Cells
These nasty chemicals called free radicals are a major threat to our body’s cells. The body generates free radicals as a byproduct of turning food into energy and can be found in the food we eat and the air we breathe. Some are generated by sunlight and absorbed through the skin or eyes. They come in different shapes, sizes, and chemical configurations, but they are all capable of damaging cells and genetic material. Free radical damage is involved in the early stages of artery-clogging atherosclerosis and contributes to cancer, vision loss, and many other chronic conditions.
Free Radicals have an “appetite” for electrons and take them from substances that will allow them to. As explained by Harvard’s School of Public Health “This electron theft can radically alter the “loser’s” structure or function. Free radical damage will change the instructions coded in a strand of DNA”. An example of how free radicals can impact our body is when they produce LDL (low-density lipoprotein), also called “bad cholesterol”. This molecule is very likely to get trapped in an artery wall. Free radicals can also alter a cell’s membrane and change the flow of what enters and exits the cell.
The good news is that we are not defenseless against free radicals. Antioxidants give electrons to free radicals “without turning into electron-scavenging substances themselves”. While each antioxidant has a unique chemical behavior and biological property, no single antioxidant can do the work of many. This is why diet and anti-aging are so connected. There are possibly thousands of different substances that can act as antioxidants. Common vitamins in food like C, E, and beta-carotene are important to help provide needed nutrition because they provided the different antioxidants a body needs. Studies have shown that people with low intakes of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables were at greater risk for developing a chronic condition and that people who ate plenty of these fruits and vegetables live longer. The body will continue to resist the relentless attack of free radicals as surely as water douses fire if it receives proper nutrition.