Free Radicals: What are they and how do they affect aging? By Guest Blogger Tom White

Our health is the most important aspect of our life.  Without health, everything else in life comes to a halt.  All the love in the world, all the money and possessions we could possibly accumulate cannot replace the value of maintaining our health.  Scientific studies have revealed to us that there are many factors involved in maintaining health and in the disease process.  One major element, something we can control to large degree, is the presence or absence of free radicals.


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Radical chain reaction mechanism of .

Radical chain reaction mechanism of . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Free Radicals: What are they and how do they affect aging?

By Guest Blogger Tom White

You’ve probably heard about free radicals in relation to the aging process but many people aren’t aware of exactly what this means. Understanding what free radicals are and how they affect the way we grow older can be key to preventing degenerative disease and premature aging.


What are free radicals?

The technical definition of a free radical is any molecule or atom that has an unpaired electron in its outer orbit. Free radicals are continually created in the millions in order to carry on the metabolic activity of the body and are essential to life. They fight infection by killing a variety of germs that we become infected with, but the problem arises when there is an overproduction of free radicals.


When there are more free radicals than can be handled by antioxidant nutrients or enzymes, damage is created in the cell membrane which can result in arthritis, ulcers, heart disease, emphysema or bronchitis and a host of other health problems. When free radicals are produced in the DNA of a nucleus, the DNA is mutated and can produce cancer, lymphoma or leukemia. Nearly every disease we can imagine is caused by free radicals.


The word “free” is free radicals refers to their action of floating around until they stabilize, while “radical” refers to the wide variety of molecules from which they can take an electron.


How do free radicals affect the aging process?


Now that we know what free radicals are, and the damage they can produce, how is this related to the aging process?


Picture free radicals working much the same way as what happens to metal when it is left outside in the elements; it begins to rust.  Free radicals are destructive by causing oxidative damage to our tissues, damaging fat, proteins and even DNA. They are thought to be the basis by many to be responsible for the entire process of aging.


The damage that’s caused is obviously just not to our outward appearance, although it will negatively affect that as well, through premature skin aging. The human brain is at especially high risk for damage due to its high degree of metabolism as compared to other tissues; it lacks the level of antioxidant protection that can be found elsewhere in the body. It is now thought that excessive free radical damage plays a key factor in the aging brain as well as degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.


Battling free radicals through the food we eat

While free radicals sound like something nightmares are made of, fortunately the best weapon in the attack against them is well within reach. If you’ve ever heard the term “food is medicine,” you should take this phrase to heart.


While avoiding free radicals completely is virtually impossible, we can minimize our exposure and neutralize their effects by eating more antioxidants that stop free radicals from causing extensive damage as well as eating foods that activate the Nrf2 pathway. Nrf2 is a protein in the cell’s nucleus and by activating this it opens the door to allow the body to produce its own important antioxidants.


Foods rather than supplements have the strongest ability to activate Nrf2 and provide protection against free radicals. Some of the best include green tea and coffee, broccoli, turmeric and even red wine.


The underlying lesson in the battle against aging, and free radicals, is to consider food as nature’s most potent medicine.


One of the best things you can do to neutralize the damage caused by free radicals is to eat a wide variety of fresh organic fruits and vegetables and an overall healthy, balanced diet.


No one particular food is considered a magic pill – there isn’t a single element but a combination of different elements at work; however, these foods are especially high in antioxidants and work exceptionally well at battling free radicals:


  • The Acai berry is remarkably full of antioxidants as well as amino acids and essential fatty acids.
  • Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, kale, brussel sprouts and kale contain two antioxidants, lutein and zeaxanthin.
  • Avocados are rich in glutathione. This is a powerful antioxidant that attacks free radicals by blocking intestinal absorption of certain fats.
  • Blueberries have the cancer-fighting antioxidant, ellagic acid, hidden in their juicy flesh. This antioxidant has been shown to slow the growth of some cancerous tumors.
  • Goji berries are sometimes referred to as one of the most nutritionally dense foods on the planet. They are an excellent source of B vitamins, antioxidants, beta carotene, iron and vitamin C.


Cleansing to fight free radical damage

A gentle cleanse is also a very effective weapon to use against excess free radicals. By supporting the body’s natural detoxification process, gentle cleansing will help eliminate harmful toxins that cause an over-abundance of free radicals that lead to many of the damaging effects to the health.


About the Author


Tom White is the editor of, an Independent Isagenix Associate, and experienced wellness and cleansing coach. provides information about the Isagenix Cleanse, free advice from a range of wellness experts, and practical tips to help people achieve optimum health.


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