View random article

What Are Free Radicals?

Free radicals cause skin aging and tissue damage. These are unstable molecules in the body that bond with other molecules—causing otherwise healthy tissue to become weak or damaged. A few free radicals can thus lead to a domino effect.

This is how it works. A stable molecule has an even number of electrons. However, a free radical has an uneven number, so it tries to “complete” itself by taking an electron from another molecule. Once it succeeds, though, it creates another free radical, since the “victim” molecule is now missing an electron.

The term “free radical” can also give an indication on how these molecules behave. It is “free” because it will “wander” around until it finds a molecule which it can bond with in order to stabilize. It is “radical” because it can affect a number of other molecules, and will “steal” electronics quite arbitrarily.

The best defense against free radicals are anti oxidants. These are naturally found in fruits and vegetables that contain a lot of beta carotene and Vitamin A and E, such as carrots. The anti oxidants “block” the free radicals so their damage is controlled.

The body will naturally produce free radicals and this is one explanation behind the aging process. However lifestyle and diet can dramatically increase the number of free radicals in the body.This can include pollution, cigarette smoking and exposure to chemicals like pesticides. Free radicals have been linked to strokes, cancer, clogged arteries and heart disease, and even chronic conditions like arthritis.

Featured in Health