Updated from 11th March, 2016. Free radicals are notorious for their aging effect on the skin. Topical application and ingestion of anti-oxidants is the only known way to combat their effects. However, bad lifestyle and other regular habits can also lead to the formation of free radicals in the body and if un-combated for long, they can result in serious diseases like cancer and auto-immune diseases.
How Free Radicals and Antioxidants affect our Bodies?
#DidYouKnow the very thing which we need to live ages us? The oxygen we breathe reacts with the skin cells to produce energy and build proteins. And, the by product of this reaction is reactive oxygen species. They can also result from environmental factors like excess sun exposure, smoking, drinking, pollution.
What are ROS?
This is from the post I had done on collagen formation and nutrition last year. In the post, I had barely touched on the effect of Oxidative Stress on our bodies. Free radicals are highly reactive and unstable molecules which often attach themselves to the next available molecule. Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) are specific types of free radicals which include single oxygen.
Free radicals are a natural by-product of the chemical reactions going on in the body. These are neutralized by the antioxidant defences in the body.
How do Free Radicals affect the body negatively?
However under stressful conditions, the production of free radicals increase to a great extent and they do not get neutralized by the anti-oxidants. That is when they start harming the body.
These radicals have a tendency to attach themselves to DNA structures, protein chains and fatty acids and a few enzymes in the body thereby altering their chemical make-up, and in the long run, affecting the performance of the organs.
Health Problems due to Free Radicals
Not only do the effects of free radicals are visible in forms of wrinkles and aged skin, it reduces the functional capabilities of various organs. Most of the degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and chronic fatigue has been linked to the accumulation of free radicals in the body.
Though ROS and free radicals are used in defence against the pathogens, excess of them can result in autoimmune diseases like leukaemia, hepatitis, diabetes, alopecia areta among many.
Which Anti-Oxidants help prevent Free Radical buildup?
There is no proof that anti-oxidants sourced from the food help with scavenging free radicals in the body. But, there is not harm in trying to supplement them through the diet.
The body’s anti-oxidant defense system is made up of Superoxide dismutase (SOD), catalase and glutathione peroxdiase.
#DidYouKnow free radicals are also associated with graying of hair. Low levels of catalase lead to bleaching of the hair internally through hydrogen peroxide.
- SOD has three major families depending on the protein and metal in the chain.
- Copper and Zinc – Meat, eggs, Seafood, Dairy products, nuts like almonds and peanuts are all rich in Copper and Zinc.
- Iron and Manganese – Seafood, meat, nuts, seeds, spinach, beetroot, whole grains, brewed herbal teas are all rich in iron and manganese.
- Nickel – Chocolate, Cashews, Spinach, Kidney beans are all rich in nickel.
- Catalse – Beef, Potatoes, Wheat sprouts, Carrots, Garlic, Onions, Leafy Greens like spinach, Broccoli, Kale, Collard, Turnip greens, apricots, cucumbers and radishes are all rich in catalase and can also reverse hair greying.
- Glutathione Peroxidase – Whey protein, eggs, cumin, potatoes, peppers, carrots, onion, broccoli, spinach, garlic, tomatoes, apples, oranges, peaches, watermelon, banana and walnuts have high levels of glutathione. Glutathione levels decrease when the food is cooked and processed so it is best to eat them raw.
Next time you plan your menu, make sure to include all these rich sources of antioxidants. What do you do to counter the free radical generation in the body?