Disease States

Free radical damage and oxidative stress

The definition of oxidative stress is ‘the damage made to a cell through the oxidative process’. Oxidation, in itself, is a very normal process – it happens all the time to our bodies and many things that surround us. Throughout our lives, our skin encounters free radicals in many different forms, it is estimated that each keratinocyte (cells in the skin’s outer epidermal layer) in our skin has 5000 exposures to free radicals every day¹ and their effect is clearly obvious on our skin, with the visible signs of aging. Oxidative stress isn’t only apparent on the outside, but is the cause of many or most diseases our society is concerned with today.

Oxidative stress occurs when highly reactive molecules, known as free radicals circulate in the bloodstream. These free radicals are missing a simple electron and are in search of another molecule that they can combine with to become stable. In their quest, they fire charges that damage other cells and structures around them. This, in turn, causes disease.

Free Radicals’ occur as normal by-products of a healthy body’s metabolic process and our bodies can withstand limited exposure to free radicals. However, excessive levels of free radicals can potentially be generated through exposure to Air Pollution, Radiation, Increased Exposure to Sunlight, Prescription and Over-the-Counter Medications, Cigarette Smoking, Excessive Exercise or Excessive Stress. This excessive generation of harmful free radicals in our system can have a detrimental effect on the body.

In healthy people, increases in oxidative free radicals are neutralised by antioxidant defenses, and it is only when these defenses are overwhelmed that oxidative stress and consequently cell injury results. Conditions and diseases related to oxidative stress include atherosclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, cardiovascular disease, most neurological diseases (including Alzheimer’s), and the ageing process.

Antioxidants protect against free radical induced damage, donating the missing electron to the free radical without the antioxidant becoming unstable. In this manner antioxidants neutralise the free radical, reducing the number of free radicals in your system and in turn preventing cell damage and slowing the aging process.

Our bodies already make several different types of antioxidants all on their own. But as our exposure to harmful free radicals in the environment and through our lifestyles increase, our need for outside supplies of antioxidants is vital to help prevent aging and degenerative disease. With a healthy supply of antioxidants from natural sources such as fruit and vegetables our bodies will have an increased likelihood of being able to withstand the harmful effects of free radicals.

¹ http://www.skintactix.com/free_radical_damage.htm

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