Free Radicals Contribute To Cancer
And Heart Disease Development

What Are Free Radicals?

To be perfectly technical free radicals are atoms or groups of atoms with unpaired electrons. They can be formed by the interaction of oxygen with certain molecules. When they react with many of our important cellular components they can cause great damage leading to poor function or even cellular death.

Free radicals are toxic to the body because they oxidize vital compounds damaging the body's cells and DNA. Examples of oxidation are all around us. A cut piece of fruit, like an apple for instance, left exposed to air (oxygen) will begin to turn brown in a few minutes. However by coating the apple with a substance high in vitamin C, like lemon juice, the browning effect will be prevented.

Oxidation will not occur.
Perhaps a more demonstrative example of oxidation is seen in the rusting of metal left exposed to the elements. It is clear from this example that oxidation can have very destructive results.

In the body, oxidation damage is a major contributor to cancer and, to a lesser degree, heart disease and Alzheimer's disease. To make matters worse these toxins apparently accumulate in the body over time and may also convert stable compounds in the body into free radicals. This means as a person ages he has higher levels of toxins related to chronic disease in his body. This may be one reason why cancer and other diseases are more prevalent with age.

What Can Be Done About Free Radicals?

Preventing free radical development is difficult since they are naturally produced in the body every time a person eats or even breathes. As long as production is kept low and we consume enough antioxidants in the diet to eliminate or reduce their damage, the body is able to cope with the situation.

In addition to the functions our bodies perform there are certain environmental factors that can increase the production of free radicals. Some of these factors we can control. Some we cannot.
Exposure to pollution, sunlight and radiation can increase production.
Other causes are...
  • Stress (even in the form of exercise)
  • High-fat diets
  • Smoking
  • Drinking alcohol.
One side-note on exercise; some studies have shown that occasion strenuous exercise is much worse than regular exercise. Apparently the body adjusts to regular exercise and controls the production of free radicals.
Don't be a weekend warrior.
Because most people are exposed to many of the factors that produce free radicals, and few people consume enough antioxidants in their diet to eradicate these renegade molecules, disease has a much higher likelihood of winning the day. Add to this scenario the fact that free radicals accumulate in the body over time it becomes apparent that as we age we have an increasing likelihood of falling victim to cancer or heart disease or some other serious malady.

Unfortunately most of us do not become concerned about our health until there is something wrong. A good step in the right direction is to avoid high-fat diets, stress, smoking and drinking to excess. Begin eating a diet rich in antioxidants (including whole food supplements) and get regular exercise. The combination of these practices will go a long way toward winning the war against some chronic diseases.

Return from Free Radicals to the Antioxidants main page.

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