Free Radical Damage
How Does It Occur?

Free Radical Damage resulting from Oxidative Stress...

Another way to look at oxidative stress is to examine the effect that oxygen has on some bare metal surfaces. If left exposed to oxygen, some metals quickly tarnish and begin rusting.

In technical terms this happens because of the way that some molecules give up their electron parings.When certain atoms meet and bind together they do so by sharing their electrons with each other.

Generally speaking, electrons come in pairs and as atoms meet, it is not uncommon for each of the atoms to share their electrons with those of the other atom and thus form a ‘covalent bond’.

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Molecules & Atoms

Atmospheric oxygen has a molecule that has two atoms held together by a covalent bond. Covalent bonds are relatively happy and stable structures however, on some occasions, electrons from a happy pair of atoms can get ‘stripped’ off by what’s known as a ‘free radical’, an atom with an unpaired set of electrons.

It is termed this way because the unpaired electrons are radical in terms of their behaviour. As molecular oxygen reacts with some metals, the bonds between the two atoms break causing the oxygen molecules to unite with the atoms on the metallic surfaces and form a new substance called an ‘oxide’.

This is how metals rust; they actually give up electrons to the oxygen molecules. This process is termed oxidation. As the human body is in constant contact with oxygen, unfortunately, many substances within the body will readily give up their paired electrons and oxidise.

We know this process as aging or, ‘rusting away’!

Free radicals do anything they can to pair up again and this includes stripping electrons from nearby paired electrons. A molecule that exists in this mutated form is essentially a damaged molecule and when they steal electrons from other molecules, they also become damaged.

If this process is allowed to continue unabated, the progression of these molecules creating other free radicals occurs in the body like the fall of dominos until so much damage has been created that it leads to symptoms and eventually disease labels.

This is not to say that all free radical activity is dangerous because, in essence, it is not. They also act as part of the body’s natural defence mechanisms towards potentially dangerous invading molecules.

Free radicals are created within your body as soon as unstable molecules are exposed to toxins, viruses, germs, bacteria and/or fungi. In this sense they are part of your body’s immune system in that some contain extra oxygen, which they use to destroy unwanted invaders through the oxidative process.

Everything in life experiences this oxidative procedure, which is a natural part of the aging process. That’s why we get wrinkles, dry and sagging skin together with sun damage or ‘age spots’.

It’s also why our major organs wear out over time because they are constantly under oxidizing, or ‘rusting’, stresses. There is nothing you can do to stop the oxidising process because these molecules are being produced by the mere act of breathing and living.

Changes in DNA Structure

Oxidation has a similar effect on human cells

When body cells produce free radicals for their own protection, they can also become the targets of other oxidising free radicals. As free radicals attack unprotected cells they cause changes in that cells DNA structure.

Because the DNA of a cell is designed to orchestrate critical cellular functions, damaged cells stagnate more easily and often become sites for cancerous growths to establish themselves on.

In How You Rot and Rust, Steve Denk maintains that much effort, “Is being directed towards studying free radical oxidation mechanisms for insight into aging and disease.” He goes onto provide a list of current diseases and disorders in which free radicals have been implicated. These include:

Aging, Alzheimer’s Disease, Angina, Arthritis, Arteriosclerosis, Cancer, Cataracts, Circulation Problems, Cirrhosis, Diabetes, Type II, Edema, Haemorrhoids, Hypertension, Inflated Tissues, Kidney Damage, Liver Damage, Multiple Sclerosis, Night Blindness, Parkinson’s Disease, Prostrate Problems, Phlebitis, Psoriasis, Retinopathy, Rheumatism, Senility, Strokes Varicose Veins.

Although you cannot stop the production of free radicals and the natural oxidative processes, a key to placing less stress on the immune system is to lessen the body’s need to produce free radicals.

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