When the amount of free radicals in the body is too much, you are prone to oxidative stress with many negative health effects. Oxidative stress is a condition in which free radicals and antioxidants in the body are out of balance.
Free radicals are molecules that contain oxygen and have free electrons. It is these unpaired electrons that allow them to easily react with other molecules. From there, free radicals can cause chemical reactions in the body. This process is called oxidation and may be beneficial or harmful.
Antioxidants are molecules that can give away an electron to bind to the free radical while remaining stable. This makes the free radicals more stable and causes fewer chemical reactions. Antioxidants include vitamins A, C and E. The body also has a natural antioxidant, glutathione.
Oxidation is a normal process and takes place regularly in the body. When oxidative stress occurs, it disrupts the balance between free radicals and antioxidants, making it harder for the body to fight off pathogens.
If free radicals are present more than equilibrium with antioxidants, they can begin to damage adipose tissue, DNA and proteins. Over time, oxidative stress will cause many serious illnesses, including:
- Atherosclerosis (or hardening of blood vessel walls)
- The chronic inflammatory condition
- Heart disease
The body naturally produces certain free radicals through inflammatory processes, metabolism or activities like exercise. This is completely normal and is part of a healthy physiological system. Diets high in sugar, fat and alcoholic beverages also contribute to increased production of free radicals in the body.
It is impossible to avoid complete contact with free radicals. However, you can take steps to minimize the effects of oxidative stress on the body. Basically, you should try to increase the concentration of antioxidants and reduce the formation of free radicals.
While it is impossible to avoid the elements of free radicals completely, you can choose a healthy, positive lifestyle with a healthy diet.