What Are Oxygen Free Radicals?
An oxygen free radical is a molecule containing oxygen that has at least one unpaired electron. This makes the molecule extremely reactive with other molecules inside the body. They scavenge for molecules to share their unpaired electron with, creating molecular fusions that alter the structure and function of the cells.
The byproducts of this molecular fusion are normally non-reactive; however, some of these molecules can experience metabolic changes within the body that gives rise to highly reactive oxidant molecules. While not all oxygen free radicals are damaging to the body; in fact, some of these molecules are helpful in killing off microbes and other invading pathogens.
Oxygen free radicals have the capability to interact chemically with various components in the cell, such as lipids (that make up the membranes of the cells), protein (that can be structural or enzymatic in nature), and even DNA (our genetic makeup).
What Are Antioxidants?
Antioxidants involve molecules that scavenge for oxygen free radicals, binding to them in a much safer way than binding with cellular components. In the absence of antioxidants, the cell is exposed to serious damage, including becoming cancerous.
Antioxidants prevent damage to the cells by binding to oxygen free radicals so that they don’t bind to crucial cellular molecules.
Oxidative stress happens whenever there is an imbalance between antioxidants and oxidants (oxygen free radicals).
What Is Damaged By Oxidative Stress?
Oxidative stress can account for many pathological conditions within the body. Some of these include inflammatory diseases, heart attacks, heart failure, atherosclerosis, blood vessel disorders, fragile X syndrome, chronic fatigue syndrome, cancers, genetic mutations, and neurodegenerative diseases, like Alzheimer’s dementia and Parkinson’s disease.
What Are Some Oxidants?
There are several types of oxidants, including the following:
When in the presence of oxygen free radicals, it will cause small changes in the redox potential of a cell, stimulating the cell’s antioxidant system in order to protect the body from the injuries caused by oxygen free radicals. If the reaction is severe enough, the cell can undergo programmed cell death, also known as apoptosis.
Food Sources Of Antioxidants