It seems that I am constantly running away from the free radicals offered me by my body. They are not of any value whatsoever and even if "free", they turn out to be costly. They are all of what is nasty in the body and connoting inferior, detrimental, and degrading images: by- products, loose canons, thieves, destructive toxins. If they are so detrimental to health, why does the body make them?
Millennia ago we humans were so eager to get out of the swamps and onto dry land, we gave up our gills for lungs. Now we had an enormous world to conquer but with every breath, some of the oxygen we drew in converted to molecules that proved unstable because they contained an odd number of electrons. In this state, there is a strong tendency for them to react with the electrons of other molecules, particularly stable ones. This process disturbs the electron balance either by pulling off one electron or giving one. Now the existing unstable molecule - a free radical- has created a new unstable molecule - another free radical- and a chain reaction of destruction has begun.
During respiration, cell units consume oxygen - O2- and produce water H2O. But there is also a toxic by product produced called superoxide - O2 which is usually shown with a dot after the 2. This "dot" represents the single unpaired electron. This free radical is very damaging because it instigates the breakdown of synovial fluid, the lubricant for the body's joints. This leads to friction and, ultimately inflammation, and a cascade of problems. The superoxide radical attacks cell mitochondria and if this part of the cell is destroyed, the cell loses its ability to convert food to energy. The superoxide radical has to be dealt with. The enzyme, superoxide dismutase converts the superoxide to hydrogen peroxide - H2O2.
Hydrogen peroxide ends its life cycle by being converted into water again through enzymes catalase and glutathione peroxidase. However, some amount of H2O2 converts to the hydroxyl radical - OH again with its single odd electron. The three enzymes work in the cytoplasm of the cells to prevent the hydroxyl radical from attacking enzymes, proteins, and the fatty acids in cell membranes. Another free radical coming from oxygen conversion is the peroxyl radical - ROO with a single electron. Its damage is done on the lipid or fat aspects of cell membranes. In total, with all these oxygen-based by products - superoxide, hydroxyl radical, high concentrations of hydrogen peroxide, and the peroxyl radical - there are an awful lot of loose electrons looking for stability.
It seems logical that the body had to figured out how to provide for some intense elimination action. It developed a variety of antioxidants or free radical scavengers on multiple levels willing to sacrifice themselves and give up an electron. There are the enzymes mentioned previously; and there are various proteins, uric acid and the amino acid glutathione plus vitamins C, A, E, and beta-carotene. Compounds such as flavonoids and carotenoids found in food such as fresh fruits and vegetables add substantially to the defense.
Antioxidant defenses are not perfect and cellular DNA is damaged regularly. Researchers estimate that there are 10,000 oxidative hits to DNA per cell per day. Many of these "hits" are repaired but repairs can only be done through ample antioxidant supplies, and these have to come from food: the right kind in the necessary amounts. Populations who consume inadequate amounts of fresh fruits and vegetables are at a higher risk for most of the degenerative diseases. Supplementation is the only answer.
You may hear doctors say that there's no need to supplement if you eat a balanced diet. But the food we eat today is not the same food we ate 50 or 100 years ago. There has been and continues to be loss of value in our food. It takes 80 cups of today's supermarket spinach to give you the same iron you would have gotten from just one cup of spinach grown 50 years ago. It now takes 19 ears of corn to equal the nutritional value of just one ear of corn grown in 1940. Much of our soil is so depleted that our farm crops depend entirely on chemical fertilizers to grow leaving them completely devoid of all the trace minerals we need. (Rutgers University studies) We've exchanged quantity for quality.
Add to the loss of nutraceuticals the intense increase in environmental and pollution stress that our bodies must deal with, more than the human body has ever before been required to handle through history. We must handle high levels of radiation; pesticide, chlorines, and fluorides residues; artificial fats; high levels of sugars; fiberless diets; constant exposure to electro-magnetic fields; and continued, unrelenting levels of stress in all living situations. The ultimate conclusion is you must supplement to maintain your health.
Now the question is what do you supplement with? If you take a multi vitamin every day, is it totally natural, co-natural, or synthetic? Or do you take isolated nutrients: a vitamin C, a vitamin E, etc., supplement? The best choices are "food grown" supplements and complexes, not isolates.
Most commercially grade vitamin and mineral concentrates are synthesized by the large pharmaceutical and chemical companies from the same materials that they make their drugs from: coal tar, wood pulp, petroleum products, animal byproducts, waste material, ground rock, stone, and shell, and metals. The term "organic" when applied to supplements does not mean the same as it does with food. It usually means that the molecules contain at least one carbon atom. Many labeled "natural" have synthetics added to increase potency or standardize the amount in the batch. These synthetics are terms such as acetate, bitartrate, chloride, gluconate, hydrochloride, nitrate, and succinate. In terms of how vitamins and phytochemicals exist, they exist in complexes. It is impossible to identify how all of these nutrients interact with and support each other. The possibilities are too immense. We need thousands of nutrients to remain healthy and these thousands have astronomical synergistic interactions.
Hang on. Don't throw this article away in disgust or frustration. Let's backtrack and try to figure out some solutions. If we exam the vitamin "C" , is there a source available that has ascorbic acid, the bioflavonoids in the family, and calcium? The answer is: YES! An orange packages the whole deal together; grapefruit packages the whole deal together; cherries package the whole deal together. Beta-carotene, and the carotenoids lycopene, lutein, and zeaxanthin are packaged in carrots. In fact, carrots contain about 400 different carotenoids!
For supplies and further information consult Marie Cargill.