Free radicals are negative products of metabolism
We have known for a long time that bacteria, viruses and fungi are the causes of many diseases. Free radicals have only been known for a few decades, although their adverse effect exceeds the destructive effect of microbes. Many studies confirm that free radicals destroy cells and cell membranes, change their function and cause gene mutations. They are directly or indirectly responsible for over 100 diseases (including various types of malignant cancer, certain diseases of the liver, pancreas, skin, kidneys, allergies and anemia).
Free radicals are also the cause of serious neurodegenerative diseases (for example, multiple sclerosis, mad cow disease and Alzheimer’s disease). Free radicals are also involved in the development of cataracts and retinal diseases. Atherosclerosis, heart attack, arrhythmia, angina pectoris are also largely caused by the aggressive action of free radicals – say the Society of Physiologists and the Society for Research on Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology.
Free radicals are the smallest particles, molecules, ions or atoms that have one or more unpaired electrons in their structure.
In addition to oxygen radicals, a whole series of radicals formed from nitrogen and other elements is created in the human body. These can be organic molecules (when bad cholesterol is created), hydroperoxides, endoperoxides and other radicals responsible for the processes of atherosclerosis and heart disease. Free radicals together cause oxidative stress when they overwhelm and suppress the body’s defenses. It is this stress that accelerates the aging process, the appearance of diseases and the death of tissues.
The antioxidant system has developed against free radicals. This protection prevents free radicals from acting or even limits them or repairs damage caused by free radicals. People are healthy as long as this system is preserved.
Fighters of the antioxidant system are the so-called antioxidants-enzymes created by the human body and certain vitamins and minerals.
All these enzymes reduce hydrogen peroxide to water. Protein albumin, uric acid, bilirubin, cysteine, lactoferrin and others protect the body from free radicals. Fat-soluble vitamins (vitamins A and E), provitamin A and qoenzyme Q are also an important part of defense. Vitamin E removes free radicals and interrupts the chain reactions of lipoprotein peroxidation, thus preventing arteriosclerosis.
Vitamin C is the most popular of the water-soluble antioxidants. Vitamin C in the body accelerates iron resorption, regulates cholesterol synthesis, prevents cancer, cataracts and heart diseases and strengthens immunity. Vitamin C as an antioxidant prevents arteriosclerosis and protects the liver. Lack of vitamin C causes redox disorders in organs that are big consumers of oxygen and energy (heart, brain, endocrine glands, liver and kidneys).
The most common disorders caused by vitamin C deficiency are high blood pressure, heart failure, arrhythmia and atherosclerosis.
Antioxidants neutralize the effects of oxidative stress, protect the heart, blood vessels and other organs from free radicals. That is why it is important that they are present in the blood plasma in the necessary quantities. Taking antioxidants with minerals (magnesium, iron, copper, zinc, selenium) maintains the redox balance.
It is not enough to take only one type of antioxidant (for example only vitamin C). People who eat more antioxidants are better protected. Certain flavonoids in apples, olive oil, olives and teas have a protective effect on certain vascular diseases.
Vitamin E prevents thrombosis and sticking of erythrocytes, and flavonoids – inflammatory conditions – which gives antioxidants great preventive importance. Another study pointed out that the preparation of vitamin E in low doses of 100 mg has a better effect in the fight against free radicals and atherosclerosis than the same intake of vitamin E from food.
Science has confirmed that free radicals are not only harmful – however strange and confusing it may seem. Namely, free radicals play an important role in the cell cycle, the transmission of signals between cells and the regulation of metabolism. This is also confirmed by the discovery of nitrous oxide as a transmitter of nerve impulses and a molecule with a specific role in the immune system and the expansion of blood vessels.