FREE RADICALS AND ANTIOXIDANTS
Free radicals are unstable molecules that are highly damaging to the body and are linked to numerous health problems. They result from combustion processes, including normal metabolic processes in the body; environmental pollution (for example, the burning of petrol); radiation; sunlight; fried and burnt food. Free radicals attack and damage vulnerable cells and are linked to cancer, atherosclerosis, hypertension (high blood pressure), weakened immunity, arthritis, ageing, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.
Antioxidants are substances (found mainly in fruit and vegetables) that are thought to help prevent or minimize the effects of free radicals. They work on free radicals in one of two ways – chain-breakers, such as vitamins A, C and E, convert them into stable, safe products; and preventative inhibitors, such as the defensive enzymes superoxide dismutase and glutathione peroxide, block free radicals. When free radicals are disarmed or blocked, the body is protected from disease and the effects of ageing. Some nutritionists advocate taking a general antioxidant supplement on a daily basis. Always seek expert advice about taking dietary supplements.