Toxins, Free Radicals and Antioxidants
We all live in a toxic environment. No matter where we live or how careful we are, we can’t avoid environmental toxins. They are in the air we breathe, the food we eat and the water we drink all over the planet. What is particularly worrisome is the high levels of pesticides in our homes, considerably higher than to levels we are exposed to outdoors. We have 300 to 500 toxins in our bodies that didn’t exist before 1940.
Free radicals are produced when our cells create energy, when we are exposed to pollutants or toxins such as cigarette smoke, alcohol or pesticides and when we undergo stress of any kind. If allowed to go unquenched, free radicals can cause damage to the body’s cells. Our cells are attacked 10,000 times each day by free radicals. The cells that line the arteries, the fat cells in the blood, the immune cells and so on can all be affected by free radicals. And because of this, free radical damage (or oxidation) has been linked to the formation of every degenerative disease known including cancer, cardiovascular disease, cataracts and the aging process itself.
Free radicals are unstable chemicals formed in the body during normal metabolism or exposure to environmental toxins such as air, food and water pollution. Free radicals help our bodies to generate energy and fight infections, but when we have too many free radicals they attack healthy cells causing them to age prematurely. The action of rust is probably the best analogy of how excess free radicals work in our body.
We are being constantly exposed to increasing amounts of free radicals due to increasing environmental toxins in our living and working environment. All major antibiotics, cholesterol-lowering drugs and birth control pills are in our tap and ground water supplies. They are even in the polar icecaps. At the same time our intake of protective cell pigments is decreasing. Free radicals are known to cause or exacerbate most (and especially chronic) diseases such as cancer, heart disease, arthritis, diabetes, macular degeneration and cataracts.
Free radical damage mutates the body’s future DNA and RNA cell blueprint message by pairing with electrons in the DNA chains, ultimately leading to cellular electronic imbalance. Inevitable blurring of the DNA and RNA blueprint will occur as mutated cells replicate this is aging. In other cases, excess free radical damage can cause DNA messages to accelerate the cell division process into a state of panic whereby DNA are unable to withstand the rate of degeneration – this is cancer.
Antioxidants are substances or nutrients in our food which can prevent or slow the oxidative damage to our body. Phytonutrients act as antioxidants which help form the body’s defense against free radical damage to cells.
Antioxidants act as free radical scavengers and prevent and repair damage done by the free radicals. When searching for the best antioxidant, look at the serum ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) value. The higher the value, the better the anti-oxidant capability. There are some “anti-oxidants” on the market that actually have negative ORAC values. This is pro-oxidative and not antioxidative.