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Free Radicals: A Radical Cause of Health Problems

Updated: Oct 3, 2022

In the early 1900s, it was discovered that oxygen is not a stable molecule. Instead, it exists in an atomic form as a free radical and can react with other molecules causing damage. Although this discovery has been known for over 100 years, our understanding of free radicals has increased significantly in recent years due to advances in technology such as nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (NMR) which allows us to see what happens inside living organisms in real-time. Free radicals cause damage to human cells when they interact with proteins, DNA, or lipids such as fats or cholesterol within your body's cells. This damage can lead to cell death if not repaired quickly enough by natural mechanisms but also contribute to diseases such as cancer and heart disease by damaging healthy tissue surrounding tumor growth sites or blood vessel walls respectively; both situations result from uncontrolled growth initiated by mutations within normal cells due to their inability to repair damaged DNA properly during replication cycles!

The O2 molecule is very stable.

The O2 molecule is very stable. It is not a free radical, meaning it cannot exist in the form of ionized gas. O2 has no unpaired electrons and only one bond between two atoms. Therefore, it can't lose an electron or gain one; thus, it isn't reactive enough to undergo oxidation reactions like other elemental oxygen molecules (O). However, this does not make O2 entirely inert: because its chemical structure contains two atoms of oxygen instead of just one atom like other elemental oxygen molecules do (such as H2O), it is still able to interact with other molecules through covalent bonding—which means that O2 can act as both an oxidizing agent and reducing agent depending on what substance it's interacting with at any given time!

Free radicals are produced in the mitochondria.

Free radicals are produced in the mitochondria, where all of your cell's energy is created. It's also where oxygen enters your body, and carbon dioxide exits it.

The mitochondria are like little factories: they produce ATP (adenosine triphosphate), a molecule that provides energy for all of your cells to perform their functions and keep you alive. Free radicals are by-products of this process; they occur whenever you breathe!

Free radical production increases when you exercise heavily or after exposure to radiation or environmental pollutants like cigarette smoke or pollution from smokestacks.

Free radical reactions can also occur in the cytosol.

In addition to reacting with DNA and proteins, free radicals can also react with other types of molecules in the cytosol. They can damage carbohydrates (such as glucose), lipids (such as fat in your cell membranes), and even other cellular components such as iron-containing proteins (called transferrin).

Free radicals are also produced by exogenous sources such as ionizing radiation and environmental pollutants, and internally generated free radicals are also formed during normal metabolism.

  • Exogenous sources of free radicals include ionizing radiation, environmental pollutants, and products of normal metabolism.

  • Internal sources of free radicals: When oxygen interacts with the iron atom in hemoglobin, iron-derived oxidative stress is produced. The body also produces reactive oxygen species (ROS) during normal metabolism through the mitochondria.

Some free radical species can be modified chemically to reduce their reactivity or enhance their ability to react with specific targets.

Several free radicals can be modified chemically to reduce their reactivity or enhance their ability to react with specific targets. Some antioxidants are made more reactive by removing a hydrogen atom from the antioxidant molecule (a process known as hydrogen donation). This allows the antioxidant to attack and destroy other, less reactive molecules that would otherwise be unharmed by them.

Antioxidants react with oxidants to prevent them from reacting with other molecules. Oxidants are degraded into harmless products that do not damage body cells and tissues.

Oxidants are molecules that can cause damage to cells, tissues, and DNA. Antioxidants react with oxidants to prevent them from reacting with other molecules. Oxidants are degraded into harmless products that do not damage body cells and tissues.

Antioxidants are a diverse group of molecules that can prevent or delay the oxidative degradation of other molecules. There are several types of antioxidants, including vitamin C and vitamin E (tocopherols). Other critical natural antioxidants include glutathione peroxidase, catalase, and superoxide dismutase.

Antioxidant enzymes constitute a significant class of antioxidants.

>Antioxidant enzymes constitute a significant class of antioxidants. Antioxidant enzymes are proteins that act as free radical scavengers, breaking down harmful molecules before they can damage cells. These enzymes counteract cellular damage and are part of the body's natural defense against oxidative stress.

The term "antioxidant enzyme" is sometimes used interchangeably with "radical scavenger protein," but the two words have different meanings. While antioxidant enzymes can protect your body from free radicals, they do not directly reduce oxidative stress levels; instead, they help other substances by removing excess oxygen molecules and other potentially damaging chemicals (such as peroxides). In contrast, radical scavenger proteins neutralize free radicals to prevent damage to cell membranes or DNA.

There are two major classes of free radical scavengers - soluble antioxidants and lipophilic antioxidants.

There are two major classes of free radical scavengers - soluble antioxidants and lipophilic antioxidants.

Soluble antioxidants are water-soluble and are found in the blood and tissues. Lipophilic antioxidants are fat-soluble and are found in the body fat, where they can cross the blood-brain barrier to protect brain cells from damage. The primary function of both types of antioxidants is to neutralize free radicals by donating an electron or hydrogen atom to them, thus preventing them from damaging other molecules.

Vitamins A, C, and E, glutathione, polyphenols, flavonoids, and carotenoids constitute the significant classes of soluble antioxidants in biological systems.

  • Vitamins A, C, and E are the major antioxidants in biological systems.

  • Glutathione is an essential antioxidant that helps protect cells from damage by free radicals.

  • Polyphenols and flavonoids are found in fruits, vegetables, legumes, and tea. These compounds help prevent cell damage by absorbing harmful materials before they can cause further harm to your body's cells.

  • Carotenoids like lycopene help lower your risk of heart disease and cancer by acting as antioxidants that remove damaging oxygen molecules from the body's tissues before they can damage DNA or other cellular structures within you.

Flavonoids may directly interact with free radicals and oxidized species like lipid hydroperoxides (LOOH). Lipophilic antioxidants such as vitamin E serve as membrane stabilizers that protect lipids from oxidation by free radicals into lipid hydroperoxides (LOOH).

In contrast to other antioxidants, flavonoids are also capable of directly interacting with free radicals themselves. They can act as chain-breaking antioxidant molecules in the body by donating hydrogen atoms that react with oxygen species (ROS) and lipid hydroperoxides (LOOH). Flavonoids are often categorized based on their solubility in water or lipids; those more soluble in water are considered hydrophilic, while those that dissolve quickly in lipids make up the lipid-soluble group. Some flavonoids have been shown to possess both hydrophilic and hydrophobic properties, which allow them to bind both types of membranes within cells. This means that they can serve as antioxidants for both cell organelles, such as mitochondria and nuclei, and membrane proteins on the surface of cells.


If you want to get healthy, there is no better place to start than by reducing your free radical load. Free radicals are one of the most important causes of poor health, but they can also be controlled with a few simple lifestyle changes.

We hope this article has given you insight into how free radicals affect your body and how to keep them at bay. Remember, when it comes down to it: You're only as old as what you eat!

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