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FREE RADICALS & HOW THEY AFFECT YOU

Sunday, February 01, 2009

This is a long essay; it contains (in the following order) these topics so if you want to skip to the topics you are particularly interested in, you can just scroll down. It’s basically for information purposes, so you don’t need to reply unless you so desire.
WHAT ARE FREE RADICALS?
FREE RADICALS ARE DANGEROUS
THE CHEMISTS AND THE RADICALS
ATOMS
MOLECULES
ATOMIC BONDS
ORGANIC MOLECULES AND CHEMICAL GROUPS
IONS AND IONIZATION
THE UNPAIRED ELECTRON
RADIATION AND CHAIN REACTIONS
OXIDATION
HOW ARE OXYGEN FREE RADICALS PRODUCED IN THE BODY?
THREE MAGICAL ENZYMES
HOW CAN WE PROTECT OURSELVES FROM FREE RADICAL DAMAGE?
SCIENTISTS DISCOVER HOW TO MINIMIZATION OF FREE RADICAL DAMAGE

WHAT ARE FREE RADICALS?
FREE RADICALS ARE DANGEROUS. They can do you a lot of harm. If your body fails to combat them effectively, they will kill you. We now know that most of the major diseases that kill people prematurely or ruin the quality of life do their damage by means of free radicals. They are constantly attacking body proteins, carbohydrates, fats and DNA, causing potentially serious damage unless checked. Every cell in your body suffers an estimated 10,000 free radical hits each day. The body strikes back, but as we shall see. This is a real battlefield.
There is no way you can avoid free radicals, but there is a lot you can do to cut down the numbers produced in your body and to ensure that the maximum number of those that are produced are neutralized. How can this be done? In this chapter I shall outline the basic scientific facts underlying the whole matter.
THE CHEMISTS AND THE RADICALS
Medical interest in free radicals is very recent, but chemists have been studying them closely for about 50 years. When they were first proposed about 100 years ago, most chemists were outraged and protested that they were impossible. Gradually, however, they came to realize that free radicals were very real and were fleetingly involved in many important chemical reactions, such as the formation of plastics (polymers), the perishing of rubber and the deterioration of stored foodstuffs. Most free radicals exist only for very short periods before attacking other substances and being neutralized in the process. They can, however, be produced as quickly as they disappear and when they do attack they can turn other substances into free radicals and set up very damaging chain reactions.
So, what are they?
ATOMS
Everything is made of atoms. One free radical consists of a single atom, others of two atoms linked together. Those that we are mainly interested in each consist of two atoms linked together. But these are not ordinary atoms. They are atoms with one very special property that makes all the difference to their significance to us. To make this plain, we must take a brief look at atoms in general.
Every atom has a central part, called the Nucleus, and a number of tiny particles, called electrons, buzzing around it. That's all. The rest is empty space. A vacuum. The nucleus is charged positive and the electrons are charged negative, and there are the same number of electrons as there are positive charges on the nucleus. So the atom, as a whole, has no charge because all the positive charges are neutralized by the negative charges. The electrons occupy regions around the nucleus known as orbitals. Each orbital can hold only two electrons and these are spinning in opposite directions. An orbital with two electrons is stable; an orbital with only one electron is highly unstable.
Atoms differ in the number of electrons they have. There are 92 different kinds of atom in nature, from hydrogen, the lightest, to uranium, the heaviest, and scientists have made a dozen more. Substances made of collections of atoms of one kind only are called elements. So there are 92 natural elements. Hydrogen has one electron; uranium has 92. So hydrogen has a problem. With only one electron, how does it achieve a stable, two-electron orbital? It solves this problem very quickly, simply by linking up with another hydrogen atom to form a pair that share a filled, two-electron orbital.
MOLECULES
Most substances are made from a combination of different kinds of atoms linked together. These combinations of atoms are called molecules. They may be quite small or very large. The molecule of hydrogen consists of two hydrogen atoms linked together. Molecules may contain a few atoms or many. Molecules of proteins or plastics are very large and may contain hundreds, thousands or even millions of atoms, usually of just a few varieties, all linked together.
Substances made of molecules are called compounds and most of these contain just a few different kinds of atoms. Water, for instance consists of an oxygen atom linked to two hydrogen atoms: H2O. Common salt consists of an atom of the metal sodium linked to an atom of the gas chlorine: NaCI. Human beings are made from just over 20 different atoms, but 93.3 per cent of our bodies are made from only four—carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen.
ATOMIC BONDS
When atoms bond to each other to form molecules they do so by sharing their outer electrons in various ways. These linkages are called bonds. Some atoms can link to only one other atom; some can link to two; some to three; some to four. A single atom of the element carbon can link to four other atoms, including other carbon atoms and this is why the chemistry of carbon is a complete science in its own right, known as organic chemistry. Carbon atoms can link together in long chains, with other kinds of atoms hooked on, or they can link together in rings of six atoms (benzene rings) or in different-sized rings with other atoms. The permutations are almost infinite.
If a carbon atom links to fewer than the full number of atoms it is capable of linking to, it forms double, or even triple, bonds. These are weaker than single bonds, because the carbon atom likes to have all its four bonds properly used up. Compounds with double bonds are said to be unsaturated; those with only single bonds are saturated.
ORGANIC MOLECULES AND CHEMICAL GROUPS
Most organic molecules—those found in living things or their products—are fairly large. All of them are based on carbon and many consists of only carbon and hydrogen, or carbon, hydrogen and oxygen, linked up in chains or rings. Most organic molecules consist of a kind of basic structure of carbon atoms to which small clusters of other atoms are attached. These clusters, or chemical groups, are very important in chemistry, especially in biochemistry—the chemistry of living things—as different groups are responsible for most of the different chemical properties of the molecules.
In 1832 the German chemists Baron Von Liebig and Friedrich Wohler discovered that, when chemical reactions occurred, these little clusters, instead of breaking up to release the individual atoms of which they are made, tended to act almost like molecules in their own right, retaining their group identity and linking on, in their entirety, to other molecules. They did not, however, persist for any length of time on their own but always tried to tie themselves on to a molecule. It was decided to call these groups radicals. This word has no deep hidden meaning. It simply comes from the Latin word radix, meaning 'a root', and was selected because the atom cluster hangs from the molecule like a root and can 'root' itself in other molecules.
As you may have guessed, free radicals are radicals that are temporarily unattached to a molecule. Unattached radicals are not happy just to sit around like the more stable molecules of compounds; rather they are constantly looking for something to latch on to. Many of them are quite small, consisting of only two or three atoms; some are larger. The one thing they all have in common is that they are remarkably active—and some of them ARE HIGHLY DANGEROUS to our bodies.
IONS AND IONIZATION
As we have seen, water consists of a single atom of oxygen with two hydrogen atoms linked on to it. The bonds between the oxygen atom and each hydrogen atom consist of a pair of electrons shared between the atoms—one from the hydrogen atom and one from the oxygen atom. The water molecule, however, routinely separates into two particles, one consisting of a hydrogen atom without its electron (H) and the other consisting of a hydrogen atom linked to the oxygen atom (OH). Because the nucleus of an atom is positively charged and the electrons are negative, a hydrogen atom without its electron carries a positive charge (H + ). Such a particle is called a positive ion'' (the term comes from a Greek word meaning 'wanderer'). The missing electron is stuck on to the oxygen/hydrogen combination (OH) which, with the extra electron is thus a negative ion (OH-). Because it contains a hydrogen and an oxygen atom it is called a hydroxyl ion. This is the normal way for water to be split up and is known as ionization. Positive and negative ions are important in chemistry, and many chemical reactions occur between different ions coming together.
THE UNPAIRED ELECTRON
About 50 years ago it was discovered—to the astonishment of the chemists—that, under certain circumstances, the water molecule can split up in another, quite different, way. If, for instance, water is exposed to radiation such as X-rays or gamma rays, the two-electron bonds between the oxygen and the hydrogen atoms can briefly split, leaving one electron on the hydrogen and one on the oxygen, thus creating two radicals, both electrically neutral but both having only one spare electron. Thus, momentarily, we have two atoms each with only one electron in an outer orbital. These radicals are known, respectively, as the hydrogen radical and the hydroxyl radical, and both of them are horribly active. THE HYDROXYL RADICAL IS THE MOST REACTIVE FREE RADICAL KNOWN TO CHEMISTRY AND WILL ATTACK ALMOST EVERY MOLECULE IN THE BODY.
It is the unpaired electron that makes these radicals so chemically active. A group with an unpaired electron is highly unstable and is desperate either to pick up another electron from somewhere, or to give up its solitary electron.
Nature likes things to be stable. Hydrogen atoms, which have only one electron, never exist individually for more than a fraction of a second, but immediately join up in pairs to produce a hydrogen molecule of two atoms with a stable pair of electrons (Hi). The same applies to a hydrogen radical—which is, of course, simply an isolated hydrogen atom. IT IS THIS STABLE STATE THAT FREE RADICALS ARE ALWAYS AIMING FOR, AND IF A FREE RADICAL IS FORMED, IT WILL AT ONCE ATTACK THE NEAREST MOLECULE-WHATEVER IT MAY BE—in order to steal or hand over an electron and achieve stability. THIS CAN HAVE VERY SERIOUS EFFECTS.
So now we have a definition of a free radical. A free radical is any atom or group of atoms that can exist independently and that contains at least one unpaired electron. Some free radicals exist for appreciable lengths of time. But the great majority have only a very brief independent existence before either grabbing an extra electron or giving one up. Not all free radicals are small, like the hydrogen or hydroxyl radicals. The methyl radical has a carbon atom and three hydrogen atoms; the ethyl radical has two carbons and five hydrogens. Some are large and complex, containing rings of carbon atoms (benzene rings) and various side chains. All however, have a single, unpaired, electron somewhere.
FREE RADICAL CHAIN REACTIONS
From the medical point of view we are interested mainly in two free radicals: the hydroxyl radical (-OH) and the .super-oxide radical, which consists of two linked oxygen atoms (O2) with a single, unpaired electron.
These oxygen free radicals, each with their single electron, can attack and damage almost every molecule found in the body. They are so active that, after they are formed, only a small fraction of a second elapses before they join on to something. In so doing they can either hand over their unpaired electron or capture an electron from some other molecule to make up the pair. In either event the radicals become stable but the attacked molecule is, itself; concerted into a radical. THIS STARTS A CHAIN REACTION THAT CAN ZIP DESTRUCTIVELY THROUGH TISSUES.
Free radical action is not, of course, limited to the human body. but occurs throughout all chemistry. Many plastics are made by the free radical action that breaks double carbon bonds and allows small chemical units (monomers) to be joined repeatedly in a long chain to form a polymer. (Poly is the Greek word for 'many'.) Polythene, for instance, is made by a free radical chain reaction to link up many ethane monomers. Synthetic rubber is made in a similar way. Even paint drying involves free radical reactions.
RADIATION AND CHAIN REACTIONS
In living systems, the hydroxyl free radical does not normally occur, because of the strength of the bonds holding the water molecules together. But if anyone is exposed to radiation, these bonds can be broken by the radiation so that hydroxyl radicals result. This is the basis of the dreadful, often fatal, damage that occurs in people with radiation sickness. If hydroxyl radicals attack DNA, chain reactions run along the DNA molecule causing damage to, and mutations in, the genetic material or even actual breakage of the DNA strands. The body does its best to repair this damage by the natural processes of DNA replication, but imperfect repair leaves altered DNA and can give rise to cancer. When strong X- and gamma radiation is deliberately used to kill cancers, it does so primarily by producing large numbers of hydroxyl free radicals.
Radiation is not the only way free radicals are produced, and tree radicals are not only produced from water. But radiation is the only common way that hydroxyl free radicals are formed in the body from water. Unfortunately, there are other ways in which hydroxyl radicals can be formed and there are several other kinds of free radicals, especially the super-oxide radical, that can be produced in other ways. They are produced by many disease processes, by poisons, drugs, metals, cigarette smoke, car exhausts, heat, lack of oxygen, even by sunlight. There is much more about this in later chapters.
OXIDATION
In general terms, the damage that is done by free radicals features the chemical reaction known as oxidation and free radical attacks on tissue is known as oxidative stress. This idea of oxidation is particularly important and deserves a closer look.
If a bright iron nail is left outside it will soon rust. If you strike a match and let it burn, the firm white wood turns to a brittle, blackened ash. If you start your car, a little petrol gets turned to a mixture of gases and soot that come out of the exhaust pipe. These are all examples of the common chemical change known as oxidation. In all these cases the element oxygen—which makes up about 20 per cent of the atmospheric air—links up chemically with the original substance, whether iron, cellulose or hydrocarbon, to form an entirely new compound. If the nail rusts completely— which it will eventually do if exposed to air and water —it turns to a pile of red powdery stuff called iron oxide. When the match and the petrol are oxidized, equally major changes occur in which the carbon, hydrogen and oxygen of which they are made combine with oxygen from the air to form new compounds. These are mostly gases—water vapor (hydrogen and oxygen) and carbon dioxide (carbon and oxygen). The ash of the match and the soot from the exhaust are mostly carbon that has not linked with oxygen to form carbon dioxide.
The whole point about striking matches and burning petrol is to release energy. Oxidation is always associated with a release of energy, usually in the form of heat. Even the rusting of the nail releases heat, but very slowly, so we don't usually notice it. The heat from the match is obvious, and that from the petrol expands the gas in the cylinders of the car engine, drives down the pistons and moves the car along. When you eat a McDonald's cheeseburger, it too Is oxidized—rather slowly so that the heat energy is released at a suitable rate to keep up your body temperature and supply energy to the cells.
Releasing energy is always a double-edged weapon. So, although oxidation is obviously important and necessary, it can also be damaging. Matches can light the gas, but they can also set fire to a house. Petrol and other active or explosive substances can be used in different ways when they are oxidized, some constructive, some destructive. It is exactly the same with free radicals. The body can't do without them, because they are involved in many essential chemical reactions. But if more free radicals are produced than the body needs, or if the body's methods of coping with free radicals prove inadequate, then we are in trouble.
Although the term oxidation originally meant adding oxygen, as in these examples, it has now been extended to have a wider meaning. Chemists now define oxidation as any chemical reaction that involves the loss of an electron from an atom. And, as we have seen, removing electrons from atoms is exactly what free radicals are particularly good at doing.
HOW ARE OXYGEN FREE RADICALS PRODUCED IN THE BODY?
Free radicals can originate in body cells in various ways. External radiation, including ultraviolet light, X-rays and gamma rays from radioactive material, is a potent source. Such radiation acts by breaking linkages between atoms, leaving the radicals with their unpaired electrons to wreak their damage. Free radicals occur in the course of various disease processes. In a heart attack, for instance, when the supply of oxygen and glucose to the heart muscle is cut off, the real damage to the muscle is caused by the vast numbers of free radicals that are produced.
Chemical poisoning of many kinds promotes free radicals, as does excessive oxygen intake from inhaling pure oxygen. The body's necessity to break down a wide range of drugs to safer substances (detoxification) also involves free radical production. The poisonousness (toxicity) of many chemicals and drugs is actually due either to their conversion to free radicals or to their effect in forming free radicals.
Inflammation—one of the commonest kinds of bodily disorder—is associated with free radical production, but the free radicals are probably the cause of the inflammation rather than the effect. However, the body actually uses free radicals to kill bacteria within the scavenging cells of the immune system—the phagocytes—and when excessive numbers of these are present in an inflamed area the free radical load almost certainly adds to the tissue damage, making everything worse. This is probably what happens in rheumatoid arthritis, for instance.
Free radicals also arise in the course of normal internal cellular function. This is called metabolism and it is, of course, essential. Metabolic processes require many chemical reactions that involve free radical action. The joining of chains of amino acids (polymerization) to form proteins, or the polymerization of glucose molecules into the polysaccharide glycogen, for instance, involve free radical action. In the course of metabolism important and potentially dangerous free radicals such as super-oxide and hydroxyl radicals are produced. In most cases the process is automatically controlled and the number of free radicals does not become dangerously high. Fortunately, the body has, throughout the course of millions of years of evolution, become accustomed to coping with free radicals and has evolved various schemes for doing so.
THREE MAGICAL ENZYMES
The breakthrough that caused medical scientists really to begin to look seriously at free radicals was the astonishing discovery that the body actually produces large quantities of a substance (an enzyme) whose only function is to break down the dangerous superoxide free radical. This enzyme is called super-oxide disrnutase (commonly called SOD by the scientists). There is no reason to be rude about this marvelous enzyme, for we really need it. This enzyme converts dangerous superoxide free radicals to the less dangerous hydrogen peroxide. This is still fairly powerful stuff, capable of turning us all blonde, and is quite damaging to tissues. Happily, the body produces another enzyme, called catalase, which immediately breaks down the hydrogen peroxide to water and oxygen, and all is well. There is a third natural antioxidant enzyme called, glutathione peroxidase which also reduces hydrogen peroxide to water.
Each of these enzymes is made in cells under the instructions of a length of genetic code in DNA. Every cell in our bodies contains the instructions for making these three enzymes. So unless free radicals are important, why would evolution go to such lengths to protect the body against them? That's something to think about.
Most current medical textbooks still treat vitamins, including vitamin C and vitamin E, in the conventional manner, by giving small recommended daily allowances (RDAs). This is appropriate for the large B group of vitamins (B1, B2, B6 and B12, niacin, pantothenic acid, folic acid and lipoic acid) and for vitamins D and K. All these, plus vitamin C, are substances necessary in very small quantities for the maintenance of health. If these small quantities are not available, various deficiency diseases occur. Vitamin C deficiency causes scurvy, a bleeding disorder; vitamin A deficiency causes serious eye and other problems; vitamin D deficiency causes bone softening, rickets or osteomalacia; and so on.
HOW CAN WE PROTECT OURSELVES FROM FREE RADICAL DAMAGE?
NOW we can finally reduce free radical generation with the proper combination of vitamins and minerals needed combined with an antioxidant supplied and manufactured by a protected patent pending. Read on for continued scientific information about this process.
SCIENTISTS DISCOVER HOW TO MINIMIZATION OF FREE RADICAL DAMAGE
The Minimization of free radical damage by metal catalysis of multivitamin/multimineral supplements by scientists AB Rabovsky, Am Komarov, J Ivie, and GR Buettner

Research & Technology Development, Melaleuca Inc., Department of Biochemistry, GWU, The University of Iowa

Multivitamin/multimineral complexes are the most common dietary supplements. Besides quality ingredients and the amount of each ingredient in a product, bioavailability is a major concern. Unlike minerals in natural foods that are incorporated in bioorganic structures, minerals in dietary supplements are usually in an inorganic form: sulfates, chlorides, oxides etc. Unfortunately, the majority of minerals in these forms precipitate at the neutral pH of the small intestine, making absorption questionable. In addition, some minerals catalyze free radical generation, depending on their form. Thus, antioxidants in supplements could be oxidized during digestion. We have created a new complexing environment for minerals that consists of an amino acid chelate and non-digestible oligosaccharide (AAOS). All essential minerals in this form are soluble at intestinal pH. Even though soluble, the commonly used form of copper – gluconate – generates a flux of free radicals similar to the inorganic forms. Monitoring of ascorbate radical generated by different forms of copper show that ascorbate is oxidized much more slowly with AAOS matrix. Direct measurement of the oxidation of ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and gallic acid (a typical antioxidant ingredient derived from fruits) by different forms of minerals confirmed the ability of AAOS to slow these oxidations. Similar results were observed with iron-catalyzed formation of hydroxyl radicals (Fenton reactions), as measured by EPR spin trapping. In addition, the relative rates of oxidation of 2’,7’-dichlorodihydrofluoresce
in by H2O2 with copper were: sulfate > gluconate > glycinate > AAOS. When compared to traditional forms of minerals used in supplements, we conclude that the oxidative loss of antioxidants in solution at physiological pH is much slower when AAOS is used. Thus we now have Oligofructose Complex (total vitamin and mineral supplement required by the human body made organically and in the likeness of nature) made only by Melaleuca, the wellness Company with patent pending, which finally reduces the rate of free radical generation better than other mineral supplements scientifically proven.

This information is taken from 3 sources. For more in depth and further information please see http://www.dsrf.co.uk/Reading_
material/Free_radicals/fre
erads2.htm
http://submissions.miracd.co
m/sfrbm2008/Itinerary/Sear
chHome.asp then type Rabovsky in the Author Last Name field and then click search.
and www.melaleuca.com/oligoresearc
h
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BELIEVINGISEING 2/2/2009 9:18AM

    Interesting. I do admit that I skipped over some, but I got the idea. Thanks. Pam

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