Free radicals are unstable molecules in our body that are missing an electron. They attack and damage neighboring molecules in an effort to “steal” an electron to make themselves whole. Once they become whole, they stabilize, and the cells they “stole” from become free radicals, creating a chain reaction. This activity damages our cells, like a bowling ball being tossed around in a glass shop. Each damaged cell can no longer take in nutrients or expel waste efficiently and, as a result, prematurely die.
The most potent of these is superoxide or oxygen free radicals. It is produced by our cells when utilizing oxygen. Some of the most potentially harmful substances in the body are not toxins that enter from the external environment, but rather those that are internally generated. Our bodies require an entire system of compounds dedicated to neutralizing oxygen’s harmful effects. Eating a diet consisting of an abundance of fruits and vegetables high in antioxidants helps combat the damaging effects of superoxide to our cells.
Antioxidants are compounds that help protect our cells from free radical damage and other sources of inflammation. Antioxidants have the power to capture and destroy superoxide, help our cells to function optimally, and protect them from oxidative stress. Since there are many different kinds of free radicals in our body, we need different kinds of food sources like vegetables and fruits, to combat this constant damage.
When we are young, our bodies naturally produce the powerful anti-oxidant enzyme called superoxide dismutase (SOD) and catalase as protection against cellular damage. Unfortunately, these levels of SOD and catalase decline with age. Superoxide dismutase is an enzyme that captures the oxygen free radicals by separating oxygen from hydrogen peroxide in the body. SOD regularly performs this function in nearly every cell in the body.
Numerous studies have shown that superoxide and other free radicals contribute to aging and disease. Antioxidant enzymes that naturally occur in the body-including superoxide dismutase minimize oxidative stress and help protect cell membranes, essential proteins, and DNA from damage. These antioxidants are produced within our cells and are far more potent in preventing oxygen free radical damage than other sources of antioxidants. Research shows that internal levels of antioxidants, like SOD, decline markedly with advancing age.
Antioxidants are an important line of defense against highly reactive, potentially destructive oxygen free radicals. Until recently, attempts to supplement with the most potent antioxidant, SOD, proved difficult, and often, ineffective, since the SOD protein molecule did not survive the acids in the digestive tract. Exciting new research has led to breakthroughs in these challenges by creating bio available forms of SOD using natural plant extracts that stimulate SOD production and boost the body’s defenses.
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