Health Glossary - For Everyone

Free radicals
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What are free radicals?

A free radical is a highly reactive compound that releases excess energy. These compounds are present in the human body and occur during normal metabolic reactions, and may also enter in from the environment. Free radicals can come from the sun, solar flares, x-rays, cigarette smoke, alcohol, exhaust, chemicals and the ozone.

Free radicals interact with chemicals in your body, preventing normal cell functions, which can lead to many problems and can lead to cancer and heart disease.

To be able to prevent the damage caused by free radicals, you need to have enough antioxidants in your body to fight them back.

Free radicals damage the body by a process called oxidation (which means to lose electrons), which makes them unstable. Antioxidants give up one of their electrons to the free radicals, to stabilise them and therefore neutralise them.


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Important free radicals facts

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Why free radicals are important

People who are exposed to evvironmental free radicals (pollution, chemicals, cigarette smoke, excessive sun, heavy metals) should supplement their body's antioxidant levels to protect the body cells from more damage.

Antioxidants are naturally available in all plant foods (especially fruits, vegetables, but also grains, seeds, legumes) and consuming enough of these each day will go a long way to protecting the cells in the body and reducing the level of free radicals in the body.


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Last reviewed: 14 January 2007 || Last updated: 21 August 2007


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More information

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NOTE: Mega doses of any type of vitamin, mineral, amino acid or herbal supplement cannot cure illnesses and in fact can be very dangerous and produce toxic side effects and interfere with medicine you are taking. Always ensure you consult your doctor before taking any type of complementary supplements.
Disclaimer: This guide is not intended to be used for diagnostic or prescriptive purposes. For any treatment or diagnosis of illness, please see your doctor.


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