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Understanding Free Radicals

We all know people when we were younger that your parents said you should not hang around because they were constantly in fights or getting into trouble. But perhaps, for some reason, they liked you.  And you found that they were both protection and liability all wrapped up in one. You had to know how to “handle” them the right way, or you would wind up on the wrong side of something bad.

Much like these double-edged friends, your body has a blessing and a curse all wrapped up into one.  I am talking about oxygen. We can’t survive without oxygen for more than a few minutes because it is a major player in the generation of our energy. 

But it has a dark side called a “free radical”. Free radicals are oxygen molecules that have either combined with other molecules, or picked up some extra energy in the form of a highly energetic electron.

If free radical land on cell membranes, they can disrupt or destroy them, leading to cell death and the release of toxic material to surrounding cells. If they ran into DNA (genes), they can cause havoc there and may cause cancer. It is this accumulated, untreated, free radical damage that is thought to be a major cause of aging and, like rust, it never stops!

Yet while free radicals age us and make us sick, they are also essential for normal health! Your body needs to use them in controlled circumstances to fight off bacteria, viruses and remove dead and dying tissues.

But, given our current diets, which are heavy in inflammatory Omega 6 fatty acids and synthetic substances, environmental toxins and excessive stress among others, most of us are in a state of “free radical overload” and do not even know it.
We all know that free radicals are harmful to our health and that we need to eat antioxidant-rich foods and take an antioxidant formula to protect ourselves. But most people really don’t understand what free radicals are, how they work and if the antioxidants they are eating or taking are really working. Is your body being damaged by excessive free radical activity

What do free radicals do?
The following experiment will clearly demonstrate both the harmful effects of free radical damage and the protective powers of antioxidants.
Take an apple and cut it in half. Rub lemon juice on one half of the apple and leave the other half alone. Keep the two halves at room temperature for an hour or two, then compare halves. The half with the lemon juice will look pretty much the same as it did when it was cut; the half without the lemon juice will probably be turning brown. If you leave them out longer, the difference will become even more pronounced.
The unprotected half is being damaged by the free radical effects of oxygen. The half with lemon juice is browning very slowly, if at all, because of the antioxidants (vitamin C, citrus bioflavonoids among others) present in the lemon juice.
Reducing free radical damage is a life-long battle.

What happens to the apple is what can happen inside our bodies if free radicals are allowed to take control. Because free radicals damage DNA and hinder cell reproduction, they interfere with the body’s ability to renew and repair itself.

Free radical damage can occur both on the inside and the outside of our bodies. Its external results are clearly seen as our skin begins to age—dry skin, lines, wrinkles, loss of elasticity. Internally, the body’s tissues and cells are similarly effected. Consequences can range from a weakened immune system, allergies, fatigue, sore muscles and poor recovery from exercise to the onset of a chronic illness such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, arthritis and pre-mature aging. 

Antioxidants to the rescue
There is no single answer and it is a constant and ongoing battle. Just as multiple strategies are required in combat, the human body has evolved to rely on a team of antioxidants to overcome free radical damage. But if you understand that free radicals forage through your body looking for electrons to steal (or give away) and they aren’t picky. They need pairs of electrons in order to be stable and they frantically seek molecules to achieve this. Free radicals will take (or leave) an electron, whether it’s available or not, including those in fragile DNA molecules, proteins, and fats. Antioxidants stop free radical damage to molecules by accepting or donating an electron to make it stable. Antioxidants are unique in that they remain stable when they donate an electron.

Antioxidants sources are often discussed in terms of their free radical scavenging abilities. This team consists of enzyme systems such as SOD (super oxide dismutase), catalase and glutathione; water and fat soluble vitamins and minerals such as vitamin E, vitamin C, beta-carotene, zinc and selenium; Carbon 60 (c60) and fresh, organic whole foods rich in natural phytochemical antioxidants like berries, grapes, pomegranate, kale, spinach, apples and oranges.

Multiple studies have proven that taking a synthetic—or even a natural—vitamin C, E or beta carotene by itself will not be effective in fighting free radical damage effectively due to the amount of plant-based or synthetic antioxidants that need to be digested. The consideration is that through the discovery of Carbon 60 (c60), c60 Carbon it may become possible to equip the body with the needed antioxidant amount that allows for a more effective combat of the free radicals.