How Our Modern Lifestyle May Accelerate Aging: Excess Free Radicals and Oxidative Stress
In our previous blogs, we suggested how aging is not a disease, but a natural part of life which can be enjoyed in vibrant health. So how do we live vibrantly? We need to understand the causes of degenerative aging, and then prevent them.
Experts (ref 1) now agree that the frenetic, toxic, nutrient poor lifestyle described in the earlier installments lead to the development of key degenerative aging processes in our body such as:
- Excess Free Radicals and Oxidative Stress
- Abnormal Methylation
- Chronic Inflammation
- DNA Degradation
- Hormonal imbalance
- Toxicity/impaired detoxification
Let’s look at each to understand exactly why they are so damaging. This installment addresses Excess Free radicals and Oxidative Stress
What are Free Radicals and Oxidative Stress?
Free radicals are created by oxidation or oxidative stress. "Oxidation" is the chemist's term for the process of removing electrons from an atom or molecule. (ref 2)
In an effort to become ‘whole’ again they seek out other chemical structures in our bodies from where they can steal an electron. After they ‘acquire’ an electron the chemical structure/tissue from where they ‘stole’ that electron is left seriously damaged generating free radicals.
Free radicals in small and controlled quantities are helpful in everyday metabolism and other normal reactions in the body. Similarly, balanced oxidation is a critical natural process: without it nothing would degrade or decompose.
The problems start when the production of these free radicals increases, gets out of control, becomes excessive, and then leads to constant oxidative stress.
This usually happens when we are bombarded daily with environmental and dietary toxins and the other consequences of poor lifestyle choices.
How can we minimize free radical damage and oxidative stress?
There are three options:
- Avoid pollution, toxins etc. which is pretty hard if you live in a ‘civilized’ populated area
- Neutralize free radicals with anti-oxidants
- Increase the elimination of cells damaged by free radicals
Probably the easiest of these options is no 2: neutralizing free radicals with anti-oxidants. In simple terms anti-oxidants voluntarily give one of their electrons to a free radical molecule rendering it harmless.
There are many anti-oxidants, all with varying levels of potency. For example, the common vitamins A, C and E are anti-oxidants, but they are quite weak. They can’t compete with a really potent anti-oxidant such as L-Glutathione.
Your body can produce L-Glutathione, but only if your internal systems are functioning well. This is often not the case, so supplementation is preferable.
However, supplementation with L-Glutathione is not effective in most supplements for two reasons.
One is that it has to be taken in the special ‘reduced’ form. This is a smaller molecular size, as the ‘normal’ L-Glutathione will not pass through the intestinal walls into the blood stream. Related to this point is that L-Glutathione must be protected as it passes through the stomach before being released in the upper intestine.
The second reason relates to cost. The reduced form is a lot more expensive than the normal L-Glutathione and few manufacturers use it.
For these reasons, the supplement must be in the reduced form and enteric coated so that it is released in the upper intestine.
We ensure that when we use L-Glutathione it is the reduced form and enteric coated. Similarly, we ensure that the other anti-oxidants we use like lutein, bilberry, grape extract, green tea extract and more, are all in the most bio-available, effective forms
By controlling excess oxidation and free radicals the likelihood of premature aging and degenerative disease can be decreased. It can be decreased further by addressing the other key causes described in the installments that will be posted over the next 3 weeks..
- Key degenerative aging processes http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lifestyle_disease
- Definition of Oxidation http://www.chemguide.co.uk/inorganic/redox/definitions.html
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