Free radicals are integral in both keeping us healthy but also in causing disease, and interestingly, are also probably instrumental in the aging process. You’ve heard me describe them as potentially dangerous because they’re highly energized, but what are they and, are they friend or foe?
Free radicals are not liberated political extremists. They are very highly energized atoms or molecules that have an unstable and incomplete chemical structure making them highly chemically reactive. Their structure is incomplete because they have at least one unpaired electron and to be stable, electrons need to be in pairs. It’s also unstable because the molecule will do anything it needs to steal another normal molecule’s electron which then makes it complete and therefore stable. The unpaired electron causes the molecule to have both an electric and chemical charge which is the driving force that propels the free radical to collide with other things in your cell.
It’s sort of like a magnet and paper clips. The magnet...
[PICKS UP MAGNET]
...is the free radical, which attracts...
[DUMPS OUT PAPER CLIPS]
...the paper clips...
[TOUCHES MAGNET TO PAPER CLIPS]
...and collides with them.
But here’s the catch. During the collision when the free radical steals its completing and stabilizing electron, it severely damages whatever it collides with. In fact, it often turns it into another free radical… a little bit like a short but limited chain reaction. When the collision is with important things like DNA, or your cell membranes, damage is done that promotes premature aging, skin cancer, emphysema, heart disease and other diseases. On the other hand, when the collision is with bad things like cancer causing mutated DNA, bacteria or viruses, that helps to protect us and is the reason free radicals exist in all of our cells in the first place.
Free radicals are double-edged swords. They play an important role in a number of biological processes, many of which are necessary for life. But they also cause damage and disease. So it’s necessary to maintain a healthy balance. Antioxidants, used both orally and topically, help to maintain that balance by attracting, absorbing and neutralizing the dangerous energy from the free radicals and their collisions. Selflessly, the antioxidants are also destroyed in that process, but your body is protected.
So to all of the antioxidants out there. I say thank you. You will not be forgotten!