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How the body defends itself against free radicals.


The reason why most of us enjoy long, healthy lives is that the body has developed its own unique defence system for fighting the harmful free radicals that cause ageing and cancers.

This defence system is powered by antioxidants. Our bodies manufacture far more potent antioxidants than anything you can find in a health food store, either in vitamin pills or in food.

Simply put, antioxidants prevent damage by neutralising free radicals, rendering them harmless.

Once a free radical joins with an antioxidant, it is stable. It no longer scavenges electrons from cellular components and damages them.

Our DNA is the most vulnerable as it has as many as 10,000 hits per day by free radicals. Every cell would be destroyed if it weren't for our DNA repair system and our home-grown army of antioxidant defences.

The big guns are antioxidant enzymes made in the cells themselves - the chief among them being superoxide dismutase, catalase and glutathione peroxidase - which are helped by vitamins, especially vitamins C and E. Normally, we can keep pace with the production of free radicals as long as the system isn't overwhelmed, but under certain circumstances our own antioxidants get overpowered.

The onslaught from internal free radicals caused by infections, illness, obesity, accidents and surgery, plus external free radicals from smoking and exposing our skins to bright sunlight, means the body is unable to keep pace.

This blitz on our antioxidant reserves is called oxidative stress. If we could minimise oxidative stress, or at least slow it down, we might have a way to prevent age-related damage to our cells and organs.
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Title Annotation:Features; Opinion, Column
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jan 6, 2014
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