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FREE RADICALS

Scientists now believe that free radical corrosion not only contributes to aging but also cancer, atherosclerosis, high blood pressure, Alzheimer's disease, osteoarthritis, late-onset diabetes, Parkinson's, poor vision, and immune deficiencies ... all the diseases of old age!

Why do free radicals form? Why are they so harmful? The explanations are to be found in the tiny worlds of molecules, atoms and electrons. The basic idea is that oxygen has a natural hunger for electrons.

Electrons are tiny particles that have negative electrical energy ... they swirl around the cores of atoms in the same way that planets swirl around the sun.

Often atoms cluster together and some of their electrons break away and swirl around the cluster. When atoms are well balanced electrically they are stable ... but when they are not well balanced they rob nearby electrons.

Even by itself oxygen is exceedingly unstable ... and tends to rob electrons from other atoms and clusters (also called molecules) ... but when it combines with hydrogen, oxygen forms small molecules that are dangerous and referred to as free radical molecules (also oxy radicals).

These free radicals are one electron away from being stable. They go into a frenzied attack on their neighbors to obtain this electron leaving the neighbors damaged and weak.

Oxygen also forms another kind of molecule that is not technically a free radical but amounts to the same thing. They are called Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS). They are unstable and steal electrons from their neighbors.

The free radicals and ROS are capable of becoming sharks in our bodies ... attacking the building block of life called DNA to cause cell mutations and cancer. They are capable of attacking living cell membranes to produce a chain reaction that destroys the cells that line blood vessels which leads to hardening of the arteries. Left to continue it causes heart attacks and strokes.

The following is a list of diseases now linked to free radicals ...

Cancer Arteriosclerosis Ulcers Body stiffness
Cataracts Senility
Heart disease Emphysema Gray hair Rheumatoid arthritis Behcet's disease Hanfovers
Maturity onset diabetes Strokes Crohn's disease Myopia
Dandruff Balding
Winkled skin

Estimates by the Japanese biochemist Yukie Niwa, reveal that a minimum of 85% of chronic and degenerative diseases are a result of oxidative damage.

But not all free radicals are harmful, some are used by the immunity system to destroy invaders like bacteria and viruses ... while others are involved in producing vital hormones.

There are relatively few free radicals in the body under normal conditions but when free radicals are clustered in large numbers they stimulate the formation of more free radicals in a chain reaction that results in damage to cell membranes and genetic material.