We are exposed every moment of
our lives to highly reactive and toxic molecules, called reactive
oxygen species (ROS) or free radicals, that damage our bodies. From
the moment we are conceived to the day we die, oxidation (chemical
reactions involving oxygen) of critical proteins, lipids, nucleic
acids and sugars
occurs in every cell in our bodies producing free radicals.
Over time oxidative stress from free radicals harm cellular membranes
and genetic material (DNA) as well as damages critical proteins and
lipids. This can cause organs to weaken, which in turn leads to accelerated
aging and degenerative diseases.
Free radicals are a normal part of our inner environment and there
are several sources of ROS. One such source of ROS occurs while burning
glucose to generate energy. It is estimated that from 1-3% of all
oxygen that we use to burn glucose is converted to free radicals in
our bodies. Our immune system also produces many free radicals while
fighting and destroying pathogens.
Lifestyle also affects our exposure to environmental agents that cause
production of free radicals . For example, cigarette smoke contains
many substances that dramatically increase free radicals and exposure
to sunlight increases oxidation of the skin. On a daily basis we are
inadvertently exposed to many environmental substances (car exhaust,
pesticides, chemical solvents, house hold cleaners, and processed
foods) that increase oxidation in the body.
Key Points to Consider
- Why are antioxidants important
- What are the sources of free radicals in our body?
- What are the consequences of a free radical overload?
- What are the key antioxidant nutrients?
Antioxidants protect our bodies
from free radicals. The body's defenses against oxidation and free
radicals include several important enzymes that function as antioxidants.
The major function of these antioxidant enzymes is to convert free
radicals to non-toxic substances. These enzymes include super oxide
dismutase (SOD), glutathione peroxidase and catalase. These antioxidant
enzymes as well as antioxidant vitamins and minerals are also associated
with effective removal of free radicals.
Important antioxidant nutrients come from our diet and from supplementation.
Several vitamins (A, C, E, and beta carotene) are potent antioxidants
that play a critical role in the protection of the body from oxidative
stress and free radicals. As essential vitamins, there is a need for
daily ingestion of these antioxidant to maintain life. Increased need
and intake of antioxidants will depend on an individual's exposure
to free radical sources.
The effective functioning of an antioxidant defense system to eliminate
free radicals is critical to reducing the aging process and for the
reduction of age related degenerative conditions.
Summary Of Key Points:
- Antioxidants protect us from
the free radicals that are constantly being generated in our body
and from our polluted environment.
- Free radical overload results in tissue destruction, reduced immune
system function, and an increased risk for degenerative conditions.
Questions about this information?