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What You Need to Know About Free Radicals
by Dave Foreman
You have probably heard of antioxidants by now, but why do we take them? The answer is simple: we are constantly being bombarded by “free radicals.” It seems we only ever hear about taking antioxidants because they are good for us. We never really hear or understand exactly what it is that they are fighting (free radicals).
Free radicals are highly offensive compounds that are introduced to the body in several different ways. Our normal metabolism is one of the key ways in which these harmful compounds come to exist in the body. In many ways, our bodies are just like a car. We take in fuel, burn it, and get energy and exhaust. If the exhaust is not neutralized or vented from the car, it will eventually make the car run improperly, or even worse - stop working altogether. Just like with your car, the faster you go the more exhaust you will produce. If not neutralized, this exhaust (free radicals) can and will cause damage to your cells and trigger a cascade of events leading to poor health.
Another way we are exposed to free radicals is through our environment. Environmental sources of free radicals include exposure to radiation (x-rays, sun exposure, etc.), cigarette smoke, unsaturated fats, alcohol, ozone, automobile exhaust, heavy metals, and many other sources found in our air, water, and foods. You can’t hide from them, and if you do not take a proactive approach, you may end up with one or more of the health conditions now linked to free radicals, such as: cancer, heart disease, and many of the aging health issues all linked back to free radical damage.
So what is a person to do? As I mentioned in my last issue of the newsletter, the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN; see crnusa.org) recommends that antioxidants be a part of your dietary supplement pyramid. Antioxidants are known to neutralize these harmful compounds and protect the body from the potential damage they may cause.
We are all familiar with antioxidants like vitamins C and E, zinc, and selenium. But you may not be aware of the abundance of other, more powerful anti- oxidants like Pycnogenol®, pomegranate, alpha-lipoic acid, lycopene, and herbs like turmeric, grape seed extract, and green tea. We all need antioxidants as part of our daily supplement program. Whether you are young or old, the benefits are too numerous to count. When seeking an antioxidant supplement, I recommend looking for a blended product, as opposed to one individual vitamin or mineral. I prefer the herbal (plant based) antioxidants. Products like New Chapter’s Super Critical Antioxidants would be a great broad spectrum choice. Other products like Weil Nutritionals Daily Antioxidant combine plants and other nutritional antioxidants. Check with a Vitamin Shoppe store associate to help you select the supplement that is right for your specific needs.