What are Free Radicals and how are they linked to aging?

The free radical theory of aging (FRTA) states that organisms age because cells accumulate free radical damage over time. A free radical is any atom or molecule that has a single unpaired electron in an outer shell. see photo below:

healthy molecule

Free Radicals is what makes you old! The first picture above shows a healthy molecule with outer “pairs” of healthy electrons which is stable. The second image shows an unhealthy molecule which is missing an Electron. This causes the molecule to become unstable and hence produce free radical cells. They attack healthy adjacent cells by stealing an Electron from it causing the cell to break down and if enough electrons are “stolen” then the once healthy cell breaks down further and eventually dies. This is called Oxidative Stress as mentioned previously. 

Where do Free Radicals come from?

As well as breathing in  Oxygen (O2) we also breathe in free radicals. These free radicals come from pollution in the air, smoking, radioactivity, UV light, also from stress, poor diet and medication.

causes of free radicals

 

 

 Why should I care? 

Well, first and foremost, free radicals can attack DNA, which can potentially lead to cancer and other illnesses so they’re considered a health risk.

Free radicals attack proteins like collagen and lipids (i.e., the skin’s structural layer and defensive barrier, respectively),  This can lead to wrinkles, dryness, and lackluster skin.

 

How can I stop Free Radicals?

The bottom line is – You CANT, well not completely. Have you heard of Antioxidants? Of course, you have, the media is full of advertisements telling you that their products are rich in antioxidants which fight free radicals and are beneficial to life. Antioxidants appear naturally in your body and are designed to block free radicals by donating one of their electrons to the unstable free radical molecule and hence terminating it before it does any damage like DNA damage. 

This is not enough though. We need a healthy diet of fruit and vegetables as our bodies can’t produce all the essential antioxidants it needs, namely, vitamin E, vitamin C, beta-carotene and selenium. The body needs a mixture of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to neutralize free radicals.

What if we don’t get enough antioxidants? Then, you will have, Oxidative Stress! If free radicals surpass the antioxidant capacity in our bodies then  Oxidative Stress will happen and as said before OS has been linked to over 220 known illnesses and diseases

Is that it then? Eat enough fruit and vegetables and no more Oxidative Stress?

Simple answer – NO!. Read on…

The key to enhancing antioxidant protection lies in our DNA, and we now understand how to activate the master switch, known as NRF2.