The free radical theory of aging is one of the major theories proposed to explain why and how we age.
A free radical is a molecule that has an extra or unpaired electron. This makes free radicals unstable as they have an extra negative charge. To become balanced free radicals “steal” an electron from another molecule converting that previously balanced molecule into a free radical. That new free radical then attempts to “steal” an electron from another molecule setting off a cascade of events. This leads to tissue destruction and cellular dysfunction and accelerated aging.. Thus, the free radical theory of aging.
Alcohol, tobacco, heavy metals, pesticides and other chemicals, some medications, radiation, diet, and strenuous exercise all accelerate the production of free radicals. Also, free radicals are generated from normal metabolic processes. Consuming excess calories generates excess free radicals. This may explain why calorie restriction has been shown to increase life-span as fewer free radicals are produced.
Free radicals attack cell membranes, can damage DNA, generate excess waste products, and impair cellular function.
Antioxidants are free radical scavengers that bind to free radicals and “neutralize” or stabilize free radicals in the process. The body has its own natural antioxidant system, but that system can become overwhelmed by the generation of excess free radicals, and many times does because of the increasing toxic environment we live in.
Taking antioxidant supplements may be beneficial in protecting the body against free radicals. Some of the more potent antioxidants available as supplements include alpha lipoic acid, beta carotene, coenzyme Q10, glutathione, resveratrol, and vitamins C and E. Many of these antioxidants are essential for mitochondria function as well. Mitochondria are the power plants of cell. ATP is manufactured in the mitochondria, and it is ATP that powers all bodily processes.
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