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Free Radicals and Ageing.

If there is one process within the body that you should be aware of - even if not fully understanding it - it is that of the production of free radicals. It is a complex chemical process, but PLEASE do not click off, for we are going to explain it in a way that the process can be at least accepted - if not fully understood.

The production of free radicals within the body, is a process that is probably responsible for most of the degenerative diseases that brings about early death. The good news is, that production of free radicals can be slowed down considerably or even counteracted quite simply. It simply needs a bit of action on our parts.

It's amazing, that one of the most important things we need to sustain our life - air - is also one of the things that has the potential to cause our lives substantial damage. It is not simply air, but that life-supporting component within the air we breathe - Oxygen!

 How can something that is so important to life itself be so destructive? As an analogy, free radicals in the body have been compared with the rusting of metal - and not without good cause.

How do Free Radicals Happen?

 For, rusting is caused by Oxygen in the air, and so are free radicals in our body. STOP! Don't switch off the Oxygen just yet. It is important for our lives - so important that without it, we would be dead within a minute or so!

To explain it away as being similar to rust in metals, is not too helpful, for it does not explain what is actually happening in or to our bodies. And, in any event, rusting of metals (iron) and the production of free radicals in our body, have different chemical processes.

A slightly technical explanation of free radical production is, that Oxygen - which is taken into our body - is transformed into energy for use by all of the cells which make up our body - whether in bones, blood, muscle, fat or brain tissue. Everything in our body, is made up of microscopic cells.

 These cells are constantly renewing themselves, and to so do they need energy. The Oxygen is converted into energy, by microscopic organisms within the cells, known as mitochondria. (Mightochondria could be a better spelling, for they are indeed providers of 'might' or energy for the cells).

Most of the time all goes well and we end up with 'energy' in the form of ATP (Adenosine triphosphate). The conversion to ATP involves four chemical changes or stages, and when successful the Oxygen is basically reduced to water - excess of which goes out of the body in a few different ways of which we are all aware. Waste dumped!

For a visualisation, think of the process as delivering a microscopic organism - or a body with four limbs. Two arms two legs. A happy little body that can feed the cell with much of the energy it needs. If the process of converting the Oxygen goes slightly adrift, then we end up with a little body with just three limbs - or a 'Free Radical'. Not entirely happy, and rather than put up with that state of affairs, it starts attaching itself to good cells in the vicinity, or robbing those cells of their proper function.

Free Radicals are therefore largely responsible for many of the degenerative diseases that wrack our bodies, and are increasingly being produced by our bodies as a result of impurities in the atmosphere in which we live, chemicals within our food and drinking water, and by that other necessity for life - sunshine. There are many other causes, but that is the basics of Free Radicals production within our bodies.

For the Chemists amongst you, please do not 'contact' to complain about the analogy or chemical inaccuracies. This page was not meant for you.



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