Free radicals: Their effect on the body

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Free radicals

Free radicals are atoms in which there are unpaired electrons or molecules in which there are such people. When there are too many free radicals in the body, they cause vandalism and the result can be premature aging and chronic diseases.

How are free radicals produced?

Electrons tend to be in pairs. If they are not in pairs, an unstable state is created because atoms mobilize extremely fast in order to obtain the electron that they are missing. They can get this electron from a vital molecule in the body which is thus “oxidized”, that is, it loses electrons – the opposite process in which a substance gains electrons is called reduction.

If a substance is oxidized, that is, it lacks electrons, this can cause a chain reaction and the result can be an irreversible damage. Oxidation can damage vital molecules in our cells, including mitochondrial DNA and proteins, which are responsible for many of the body’s processes. These vital molecules are needed for our cells to function properly, and if they are damaged the cell can malfunction or even die.

Many of the free radicals contain oxygen. Some of the most reactive oxygen radicals are hydroxyl (Η OH), hypochlorite anion (ClO-), superoxide anion (∙ O2-) and hydrogen peroxide (H2O2). These free radicals are so active that they cause chain oxidation reactions in milliseconds [1].

Free radicals and oxidative stress

Antioxidants are molecules that neutralize free radicals by stopping the vandalism they cause in the body. They easily provide the electron that a free radical wants. In a wantioxidantsy, they are being sacrificed instead of being in a vital molecule. Thus they are also converted to free radicals but unlike other molecules they are not very reactive and do not cause chaos. Instead, they restore balance to the body.

But free radicals are not always bad, after all, they are part of the natural process of our metabolism. Many are produced in the mitochondria, which are the power plants inside our cells. Mitochondria are responsible for the oxidation (burning) of certain molecules that we receive from the diet by producing energy through a process called oxidative phosphorylation. This metabolic pathway is a series of oxidation and reduction reactions in which individuals try to give or receive electrons. For example, glucose is oxidized by the oxygen we inhale, producing carbon dioxide, water and energy.

Also, our immune system uses free radicals to kill foreign microorganisms. White blood cells called phagocytes “swallow” the bacteria and then release free radicals to destroy them.

But the accumulation of many free radicals can have serious consequences for our health. Free radicals can be exacerbated by a variety of lifestyle factors such as stress, pollution, sunlight, smoking and alcohol, which cause oxidative stress in the body, which plays an important role in many human diseases.

Oxidative stress is higher in cell membrane, mitochondria, cell nucleus, Golgi body and lysosomes. Free radicals are involved in age-related health problems, such as hardened arteries, diabetes, and even the formation of wrinkles. To date, the involvement of oxidative stress has been confirmed in more than 100 diseases.

Free radicals and nutritional antioxidants

A healthy diet is an effective way to get the antioxidants your body needs. Fruits, vegetables, grains, eggs and nuts are good sources of antioxidants.

Some foods have more antioxidants than others, e.g. berries and blueberries, and are called superfoods. In addition to antioxidant vitamins A, C and E, some phytochemicals such as e.g. The flavonoids found in onions, eggplants, lettuce, turnips, greens, pears, red wine, parsley, citrus fruits and legumes are thought to have significant antioxidant properties [2].

One reason for the increase in free radical production is the excessive consumption of food. As we eat more, our mitochondria release higher levels of free radicals. Avoid foods with a high glycemic index or foods rich in refined carbohydrates because they are more likely to create free radicals. Limit processed meats such as sausages, bacon, ham and salami because they contain preservatives that lead to the production of free radicals. Do not reuse cooking oils because their heating oxidizes them, creating free radicals that leak into your food.

Note that the continuous interaction between acceptable electrons (free radicals) and electron donors (antioxidants) is an extremely balanced and complex biochemistry. When there are too many recipients or donors, the system is out of balance and can cause damage. In general, high levels of antioxidants and low oxidative stress are associated with better health, but things are not so simple.

Antioxidants and side effects

Recent studies have shown that many antioxidants can do harm. Also, not all antioxidants are the same. Some are natural enzymes produced by our body and others are found in food. Studies have shown that excessive consumption of certain antioxidants can upset the biochemical balance. The same is true for vitamins. If individual antioxidants are consumed in excessive amounts the biochemical balance can be lost and there can be side effects.

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References

  1. Free radicals, antioxidants and functional foods: Impact on human health.
  2. Oxidative Stress: Harms and Benefits for Human Health.
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