Monthly Archives: October 2013

How antioxidants work

Antioxidants are substances, chemicals, that are capable of counteracting damage done to the body through the normal process of oxidation.  Antioxidants are nutrients, often vitamins and minerals, as well is enzymes produced by the body.  The oxidation process happens during normal metabolism in the production of energy in the body.  This oxidation process produces free radicals which are chemically active atoms or fragments of molecules that have changed because of an excess or deficient number of electrons.

Because free radicals have one or more unpaired electrons they are highly unstable.  Their objective is to become stable and they scavenged through the body looking for other cells that can donate an electron or where they can grab another electron.  This process damages the cells, proteins and the genetic material in the body.  Researchers believe that antioxidants play a role in preventing the development of cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease and other health issues.

This oxidative process is the same thing that turns an apple slice brown, makes fish become rancid or develops a raw and inflamed area on a cut on your skin.  To help protect the body from this oxidation are thousands of different antioxidants that are in a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and legumes.

It is impossible for humans to avoid the damage done by free radicals because they arise from sources both inside and outside the body.  The oxidation as a result of normal respiration, metabolism and inflammation produces free radicals while others formed in the environment from pollution, sunlight, strenuous exercise, x-rays, smoking and alcohol all cause similar damage inside the body.

The danger is not that a free radical will simply kill a cell.  The problem is that they injure the cells and damage DNA.  When a cell’s DNA changes it mutates and can grow abnormally, reproducing quickly and abnormally.  Normal cell function inside the body often produces a small percentage of free radicals but these are generally not a large problem.  It is the external toxins which we breathe in, pesticides, alcohol, tobacco and pollution which triggers substantial free radical production and damage.

Anti-oxidants work in a specific manner to alleviate the damage done by free radicals in the body.  These free radicals happened in 1% or 2% of cells that gets damaged in the process of oxidation.  The term “free” is used because they are missing a critical molecule which sends them on a rampage to find they are missing part.

Antioxidants work by blocking the process of oxidation.  In the fact they neutralize free radicals, which is why there is a constant need to replenish these resources in the body.  They work in one of two ways.  In the first case the free radical releases or steals an electron and then a second free radical is formed.  This second molecule turns around and does the same thing to another molecule which continues to generate more unstable molecules in a very quick process.  The process stops when the molecule is stabilized by a chain breaking antioxidant or simply decays into a harmless chemical.

In the second case the antioxidant prevents oxidation by reducing the rate of initiation.  They scavenged free radicals and can stop the chain formation from ever being set in motion.  These are often antioxidant enzymes such as catalase and glutathione

The effectiveness of the antioxidant will depend upon the free radical in the target of damage.  Vitamin C will often stop chain reactions because it captures the free radical and neutralizes it.  Flavanoids are the biggest class of antioxidants and researchers have identified over 5000 different chemicals in a variety of foods.

Another class of antioxidants are polyphenols, which scientists may referred to as phenols.  These are group of chemical substances found in plants and often found in berries, tea, olive oil, chocolates, peanuts and other fruits.

The food and drug administration recommends that an individual consumes 3000 units of Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity per day, a way of measuring the amount of antioxidants found in your food.  For example, 100 g of blueberries contains 2400 units and 100 g of spinach contains 1230 units.  It is quite easy to consume the recommended amount daily by simply eating a diet full of fruits and vegetables.

What is Arthritis?

Arthritis is often referred to as a single disease entity but it is actually a generic term that is used for a group of over 100 different medical conditions.  Each of these conditions collectively affects nearly 46 million adults and over 300,000 children in the United States alone.  The most common form of arthritis is osteoarthritis and is most prevalent in people over the age of 60.

A specific explanation of arthritis is therefore very difficult to define because of the variety of conditions which fall under the medical term.  However, the common thread among these conditions is that they all affect the musculoskeletal system, and most specifically the joints.  A joint is an area of the body where two or more bones meet and often are able to articulate, creating the ability for motion.

The word arthritis comes from the Greek word ‘arthron’ meaning joints in the Latin ‘itis’ meaning inflammation.  And, while the majority of osteoarthritis affects individuals over the age of 60, some forms of arthritis can affect people at a very early age.

Inside of each joint are a variety of different structural and physiological ways that the body works to protect each of the bones that meets inside the joints.  This protection keeps the bones from rubbing on each other and causing damage.  When an individual has an arthritic related joint problem it is often this protective system which are either degenerated or became injured.

Within each joint are also ligaments which hold the two bones together.  These ligaments act like elastic bands which keep the bones in place when muscles relax or contract.  Cartilage covers the surface of the bones to stop the two bones from rubbing directly on each other and the capsules surrounds the joint which has synovial fluid to nourish the joint and the cartilage.  When something goes wrong within the system it can cause degeneration or destruction of a specific joint.

Arthritic conditions are not limited just to the joint systems.  Although joint involvement can be a major areas which are affected, many forms of arthritis can be classified as systemic.  This means that the illness or disease will affect the entire body, including internal organs, hearts, kidneys, blood vessels and the eyes.

Symptoms of arthritis can include pain, stiffness, inflammation and damage to the cartilage system as well.  Damage to the cartilage can lead to joint weakness and instability that can interfere with some basic daily living tasks.  For instance, deformities and weakness can interfere with walking, brushing your teeth, climbing stairs, using a keyboard or cutting your food.

Arthritic conditions have become the major cause of disability in the United States.  It costs employers and insurance companies more than $124 billion a year in medical care and indirect lost wages and production.  According to the Arthritis Foundation unless there are specific changes in the medical care and prevention of arthritis, this situation is only continuing to get worse.

Most people start to feel pain and stiffness in their bodies over time.  Sometimes their hands, knees or feet begin to get sore or are hard to move.  This may or may not be a result of arthritis.  While it is true that arthritis can be painful, there are medical treatment protocols that are now available in order to help individuals feel better and stop the advancement of the disease.