Intensive scientific work and research in medical field during last century has unveiled many mysteries pertaining to body and its health. One such research work relates to free radicals. There has been lot of talk about free radicals as the fundamental cause behind many diseases such as cancer, cataract, joint diseases and aging as well.
Free radicals in the body are not new, but its benefit and disadvantage have been identified in recent times due to extensive research in molecular biology. Free radicals are molecules in the body which has an unpaired electron. This makes them very unstable and reactive. When present in excess amount free radicals can damage the DNA structure and cellular membrane, thus opening the way for several diseases including cancer.
Some amount of free radicals is formed in the body as a byproduct through natural physiological metabolic process and response of the immune system. But sometimes it is overproduced due to environmental influence or some endogenous change in the body. This excess of free radicals cause harm to the body cells and tissues leading to various diseases.
How Are Free Radicals Formed In The Human Body?
Free radicals are present in the body in small amount and they do not harm. Sometimes they indeed are useful in neutralizing viruses and bacteria that invade the body. They are neutralized by natural antioxidants present in the body.
Free radicals are atoms and molecules which are unstable because of unpaired electron. As a result the molecule will try to steal electron from the nearby molecule for its stability. Now the other molecule has become free radical as it has lost one electron. It will try to make another neighboring molecule unstable by stealing its molecule. Thus a chain reaction occurs in number of molecules creating large number of free radicals.
There are many types of free radicals, but the most common and damaging is oxygen free radical. This free radical of oxygen cause oxidative damage to the DNA and cells of the body leading to various diseases. Environmental factors play large role in formation of excess of free radicals. These factors are:
- Tobacco and cigarette smoking.
- Stress both physical as well as psychological.
- Use of recreational drugs.
- Over exposure to radiation of sunlight.
- Working in areas having nuclear radiation leakage.
- Constant exposure to certain harmful metals such as lead, arsenic and mercury.
- Pesticides and chemical exposure.
- Eating excess of food containing saturated fats and processed food.
- Automobile exhaust.
Effects Of Free Radicals In The Body
Free radical can cause oxidative damage of the cells and its basic inner structure the DNA and RNA. It thus increases risk for many diseases. Free radicals can cause damage to various tissues and cells of an organ. The oxidative damage is responsible for mutations in the DNA which in turn can trigger uncontrolled growth of cell or tissue which we label it as cancer.
Certain other conditions such as atherosclerosis of arteries, coronary artery disease, kidney failure, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, dark spots on skin, psoriasis, cataract, early aging, lung cancer, stroke, etc are associated with excess of circulating free radicals in the body.