Free Radicals: Destructive Scavengers and the Vital Role Antioxidants Play
Several years ago, it was all over the news. Free radicals were damaging -- we all had them, and antioxidants were the solution. But what role do free radicals play in damaging the body, and how are we supposed to get rid of them? How do antioxidants work and what is the best way of adding them to our diet?
Twenty-four hours a day, while the body is constantly working, cells are metabolizing and creating energy as they carry out their tasks. This natural process results in free radicals, the same way driving to work in your car creates exhaust fumes. Some free radicals are natural byproducts of the ongoing workings of the body. Some are from environmental factors, such as pollution, radiation, and cigarette smoke.
A free radical is simply a molecule that is missing an electron. As soon as a molecule loses one of its attached electrons, it becomes unstable and seeks to re-stabilize itself by stealing an electron from the nearest molecule. This causes the attacked molecule to then become a free radical and starts a chain reaction. Ultimately the process can lead to cell damage.
Free radicals become extremely damaging to the body as they steal electrons from your cells. They begin to spread like wildfire and build up over time if your body does not have enough antioxidants to keep them in check. They can attack cell walls, get inside cells and cause damage to the DNA. This leads to cancer. Cancer is defined as a degenerative stress condition, and we can understand this better when we understand the role free radicals play.