Sunday, August 28, 2011

Oxidative Stress

I am not quite done with vitamins. There is another big reason why I believe it's important to take vitamins and that has to do with oxidative stress. You've probably heard of free radicals and anti-oxidants but chances are you may not know exactly what one or both of them are.

Free radicals occur naturally in the body. They are chemical compounds that are very reactive and will steel electrons from other molecules. When this occurs, the molecules who have just given up an electron then become more reactive and turn into free radicals themselves. We have a chain reaction and the result is oxidation. If you cut an apple or an avocado in half and leave it exposed to the air, it turns brown. This is oxidation.

In our bodies, it's the cells that take the hit. They get damaged by oxidation and this is referred to as oxidative stress. The cells are the building block of your body, healthy cells build healthy bodies. The body protect's itself from this oxidative stress with anti-oxidants, which are compounds and molecules that are able to donate an extra electron to free radicals thus stopping that chain reaction. Where do we get these anti-oxidants from? Fruits and Vegetables for example. Vitamin C is an anti-oxidant, in fact if you take that apple or the avocado from the earlier example and squeeze some lemon juice on it, it won't turn brown. That's because the Vitamin C is protecting the exposed fruit cells from oxidation (see right side of the apple).

The same applies to our body's cells, the get their protection from anti-oxidants found in fresh fruits and vegetables. So far this should make pretty good sense, if you eat a lot of fruits and vegetables your more likely to be healthy. Oxidation is a natural process and anti-oxidants help the body deal with it. So why would anyone be concerned with getting more anti-oxidants? The answer is that just as the mineral content of our farming soil has dramatically decreased since the 1940, the amount of oxidative stress has increased. What are some of the sources of this increased Oxidative Stress? Toxins in our environment, which are either in the air we breathe or in the food we eat, have increased astronomical since the 40s.

David Servan-Schreiber writes about this in his book Anticancer: "The annual production of synthetic chemicals has risen from a million tons in 1930 to two hundred million tons today"! The chemical industry has released well over one hundred thousand chemical compounds since the 1940s, the vast majority of which remain unstudied in terms of their ability to cause cancer for example. One argument that chemical companies always make is that humans generally are exposed to only one hundredth of the amount toxic to animals of the chemical in question. However, we are regularly exposed to 3,750-7,500 carcinogens of which one hundredth is still thirty-seven to seventy-five times the dose considered toxic to animals. And of course there is the 'cocktail effect' of being exposed to a vast combination of environmental toxins, of which no one has a clue what the effect is on the human body.

One thing is certain, we have been getting sicker and bigger. This coming generation may actually be the first in history to be outlived by their parents. I for one am committed to limiting my exposure by eating as much organic, fresh and local as I can. And I am also comforted to know that my body is getting protection and all the help it needs to repair itself from the Vitamins, Anti-oxidants and Minerals I take.

Stay healthy friends, live long and prosper!

1 comment:

  1. Great post Flo. Anti-oxidants seemed to me like such a buzz term, but I see why they are so important!