What are free radicals and why do we want to get rid of them?
Free radicals are unstable atoms that “steal” electrons from other normal cells, and this leads to cell damage and aging.
Free radicals are formed from normal metabolism or outside sources like smoke, pollution, and radiation. They are also released by cells of the immune system to destroy invading microbes. Free radical theory of aging: As we age, we lose the ability to deal with free radicals, leading to more oxidative stress, more cell damage, and quicker aging.
When we talk about antioxidants and free radicals scavengers, these are substances that neutralize these unstable atoms so they don’t latch on to healthy cells and cause damage. When an overload of free radicals cannot be gradually destroyed, then their accumulation leads to a state of “oxidative stress”.
It is well established that oxidative DNA damage is responsible for cancer development. Often “inflammation” is used instead of “oxidative stress”. The concept is the same, both lead to tissue damage, cancer, aging, scar formation, and a whole slew of diseases.
The role of antioxidants is the neutralization of oxidative stress. When an antioxidant destroys a free radical, the antioxidant itself becomes oxidized. Therefore, antioxidant resources must be constantly restored.