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Free radicals are a natural consequence of oxidation – that vital process that allows our body to function normally. Free radicals actually play an important role in a number of biological processes, some of which are necessary for life, such as intracellular killing of bacteria by neutrophil granulocytes. They have also been implicated in certain cell signaling processes. The two most important oxygen-centered free radicals are superoxide and hydroxyl radical. They are derived from molecular oxygen under reducing conditions, such as when a person breathes.
However, because of their high reactivity, free radicals often participate in unwanted side reactions resulting in cell damage. Many forms of cancer are thought to be the result of reactions between free radicals and DNA, resulting in mutations that can adversely affect the cell cycle and potentially lead to malignancy. Scientists have also pointed to free radicals as the cause of some of the symptoms of aging, such as atherosclerosis, alcohol-induced liver damage, alpha 1-antitrypsin in the lung, and even emphysema.
Now, don’t get this wrong. Free radicals are still necessary for life, but in order to prevent yourself from developing these diseases, you need to take action in keeping free radicals at a minimum. Fortunately for us, the body has a number of mechanisms to minimize free radical induced damage and to repair the damage which does occur. Enzymes superoxide dismutase, catalase, glutathione peroxidase, and glutathione reductase, these are only a few of the substances found in the body that can help repair cell damage.
But that’s only as far as repair is concerned. What about controlling free radicals in the form of prevention? Now, this is where antioxidant support comes in. Antioxidant support plays a key role in the defense mechanisms of the body. The most common antioxidant supports are in the form of vitamins, specifically vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin E. In addition, there is good evidence that bilirubin and uric acid can act as antioxidant support to help neutralize certain free radicals.
Antioxidant support can be found in almost everything that we eat. More particularly, fresh fruits and vegetables are the richest sources of antioxidant support available. For instance, the antioxidant support Retinol or Vitamin A (or beta-carotene) are found in dark green, yellow, and orange vegetables and fruits. In fact, it is the antioxidant support found in these fruits that protect them from solar radiation damage.
Another antioxidant support, ascorbic acid or Vitamin C is a water soluble compound that is found in citrus fruits, green peppers, broccoli, green leafy vegetables, strawberries, raw cabbage, and tomatoes.