Free Radicals, Antioxidants, Aging and Health

By Dr. Cynthia Horner

We hear a lot about antioxidants. They are in our food, supplements, make up, face and hand lotion and even in our soap. But  how do they effect our health and aging ? I found some interesting information on antioxidants that I simplified so all my readers could have a little better understanding of what this antioxidant hype is all about.

Dead tissue turns moldy, live tissue oxidizes

Oxidation is a normal part of life. It is the process of free radicals that creates cell damage. Free radicals are produced every time youroxidizing apple body uses oxygen to convert food into energy. Oxidation occurs in the flesh of an apple when it is cut then exposed to the air and turns brown. Free radicals cause oxidation in your skin when exposed to the sun. Free radicals and oxidation is what happens as your body tissue ages, dead tissue turns moldy, live tissue oxidizes. Free radicals cause oxidation and oxidation damages cells.


Free is good but in the case of free radicals too much free causes problems

Your body expects free radicals and is designed to deal with them, but problems occur when they are being produced faster than your body can handle them. Free radicals are not the problem it is the overload of free radicals that causes a problem.

Things that cause free radical overload:free radicals

  •  Cigarette smoke
  • Chlorination of water that creates high levels of chloroform and trihalomethanes.
  • Pesticides used in the food we eat or the food animals we eat- eat.
  • Radiation from the sun, computers, cell phones and x-rays create free radicals.
  • Hydrogenated fats and rancid (old) fats and oils.
  • Animals bodies try to contain toxic chemicals by shoving them into the animal’s fat. When we eat the meat or drink the milk of the animal we consume the stored toxins. Likewise our bodies try to contain the toxins by storing them in our fat. Fatty tissue is subject to a lot of free radical damage, including the fat in cell walls. 

Cell walls are like bouncers in a night club

Cell membranes are made of fats. The cell membrane surrounds and protects the cell by allowing nutrients and helpful things in and escorting toxins and waste products out. The membrane also does the job of keeping things that shouldn’t be in the cell out of the cell. I compare the cell wall to the outside walls of a night club, with bouncers at the doors. They keep troublemakers from entering, let pretty women and nice guys in, and throw out anyone creating a problem on the inside. What would happen to the night club if the bouncers weren’t there? Things that don’t belong in get in and things that should be taken out are not. This is what happens to a cell when free radicals cause damage to the selectivity or bouncers of the cell wall. The result is cell death.

Unpaired electrons like unpaired humans look for new partners

A free radical is an atom which has an unpaired electron in its outer ring making the atom unstable. Unpaired electrons, much likepartners unpaired humans look for a partner and like humans they don’t mind taking one that is already paired with another. This creates a new unpaired electron setting up a chain reaction that quickly gets out of hand. Each time an electron is taken from its partner it creates a little cell wall damage. The quick chain reaction is much like a gymnasium floor covered in mouse traps sprung back with a ping pong ball on each arm. Tossing one ping pong ball onto the gym floor would result in a chain reaction springing first one trap then two, then five then ten until all were sprung. A sprung mouse trap is like a damaged cell. If the damaged cell wall  is in arteries it creates arteriosclerosis, if in the skin it creates damaged deep layers of skin resulting in wrinkles.


Antioxidants ( for atoms) for electronsoffer new partners to unpaired electrons

Antioxidants combat oxidation by offering an electron to the first bidder to take it, breaking the chain of electrons knocking others out of their partnership and damaging cell walls. Listed below are some of the well-known nutrients that when broken down by the body end up with an ‘x-tra’ electron thus breaking the vicious cycle of free electrons or free radicals that create oxidative damage at an accelerated rate.


Nutrients that offer electrons new partners to stop the madness

  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin E
  • Beta carotene (a form of vitamin A)
  • Coenzyme Q10  ubiquinol
  • Grape seed extract
  • Pomegranate seeds and juice
  • Acai berry or juice

Although it is a difficult to keep the fine balance between avoiding the things that cause electrons to break free and ingesting the things that offer electrons new partners, striving for that balance will keep you looking younger and keep your body healthier.


What my patients have taught me “Food isn’t just fuel; but has the power to heal.”