What factors increase free radical damage?
Free radicals are produced in small quantities by all living cells. While this does not cause major health problems, generation of free radicals at a higher percentage has deleterious effects on human health. A condition called oxidative stress, occurs when free radical generation overwhelms our body’s ability to handle and regulate them. When this happens, the free radicals alter fats and protein structures in our body, and can lead to our DNA’s triggering a number of disease conditions.
6 Factors that increase free radical generation
Cigarette smoke: There is strong evidence to support that tobacco smoke contains many cancer-causing agents as well as free radicals, and is identified as a potential trigger for damage to the internal organs, especially the lungs and respiratory system(1). Many studies clearly show the association between cigarette smoke and free radical generation. The oxidants and free radicals in cigarette smoke have been linked to oxidation of fats (cholesterol, and LDL) leading to the formation of plaques leading to heart disease (2, 3).
UV radiation from the sun: The ultraviolet rays from the sun is a potent free radical generator. The photon molecules from the UV rays from the sun interacts with oxygen to generate unstable free radical derivatives such as superoxide, hydrogen peroxide, and the highly reactive hydroxyl radical. Free radicals avidly attack macromolecules such as protein, lipid (fat), RNA, and DNA, altering their structure and interfering with their function. This is why UV radiation is classified as a “complete carcinogen” because it is both a mutagen and a non-specific damaging agent and has properties of both a tumor initiator and a tumor promoter (4).
Pesticides: Studies reveal that prolonged exposure to pesticides can also be a reason why free radicals are generated at a higher rate. In a study on rats exposed to a type of pesticide called pyrethoid, which is commonly used in agriculture, researchers observed that there was an increase in the free radical generation in a rat’s brain (5). It is to be noted that human exposure to this pesticide is widespread.
Low intake of antioxidant-rich food: There is overwhelming evidence from epidemiological studies showing that a high intake of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables are associated with a lower risk of several degenerative conditions. When your body does not receive the optimal supply of antioxidants, the destructive free radicals get an upper hand. Studies show that dietary antioxidants such as vitamin C, Vitamin E, polyphenols, bioflavonoids, proanthocyanidin molecules, etc. are very potent in scavenging free radicals and preventing oxidative stress.
Processed meat intake: The link between processed meat and cancer is very strong. Processed meat such as hot dogs, sausages, bacon, and the preservatives used in these meats are susceptible to oxidation when cooked at high temperatures such as grilling leading to free radical generation. Similarly, red meats contain iron that becomes easily oxidized when cooked and are a potential trigger for free radical generation. While iron found in red meat poses this problem, iron from plant sources is safe.
Excess alcohol intake: The National Cancer Institute says that one of the ways alcohol consumption increases the risk of cancer is by generating free radicals in the body. Alcohol is identified as a cancer-causing trigger in human diseases. Alcohol and processed meat intake go hand-in-hand in generating free radicals in your body making you vulnerable to degenerative diseases.
It is true that free radical generation is inevitable, but taking some precautionary measures can severely reduce your risk. A wise step is to consume plenty of antioxidant-rich foods and supplements containing flavonols, OPC’s, and other vitamin antioxidants which play a major role in combating free radicals. Research studies over the recent years strongly advocate the consumption of antioxidant-rich foods and supplements in order to balance free radical generation. This is crucial to maintain health and prevent diseases or pathological states.
If you or someone you know could benefit from an increase in antioxidant consumption please take a look at our Isotonic Super Antioxidant Formula, OPCXtra. OPCXtra contains 30 mg of 6 different Super Antioxidants, and may be just what you need to help combat free radicals and maintain a healthy lifestyle!