Oxidative Stress

We have all heard the terms oxidative stress and free radical damage. Scientists now identify oxidative stress as among the most important causes of many chronic illness and premature aging.  Our bodies  use oxygen to transform food into energy, just as a fireplace or an engine uses oxygen to burn fuel.  The burning process results in byproducts called free radicals.  Free radicals are highly unstable molecules that interact quickly and aggressively with other molecules in our bodies.  This interaction is called oxidation.  Since oxidation and the creation of free radicals are normal parts of our bodies’ metabolism, our bodies are adapted to neutralize free radicals.

The body maintains a sophisticated system of  defenses to neutralize free radicals using antioxidants.   Chemical anti-oxidants stabilize  free radicals by giving them the electron they need to "calm down." Antioxidants are usually consumed, or used up, in this process--they sacrifice themselves.

Faced with normal metabolism and a diet rich in antioxidants, most of us are able to keep free radical damage in our bodies to a minimum.  Problems arise when our bodies defenses against free radical damage are overrun.  This can happen because of increased free radical exposure or because of inadequate defenses, and it is thought to be a major part of the aging process.

Overexposure to free radicals can come from sources inside or outside the body.  Cigarette smoke, pollution, artificial and fried foods, and dietary toxins all increase free radical exposure.  From inside the body, free radicals can result from infection, unhealthy bacteria living in the colon, or from the body’s detoxification processes. Even psychological and emotional stress causes our bodies to generate free radicals.  A final important source of free radical damage is extreme physical exercise, such as one gets in running a marathon.  

Conditions linked to oxidative stress include Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, heart disease, cataracts, chronic fatigue, cancer, and arthritis,

How to Protect Yourself From  OXIDATIVE STRESS
Oxidative stress and the nervous system
Oxidative Stress and the Heart