Free radicals and oxidative stress

Before going into the heart of the subject, we need to look more deeply into the question of free radicals because we will mention them again and again.

Denham Harman and the theory of aging

Born in 1916, Denham Harman became the “father of the theory of aging”, the pioneer of modern gerontology, and while teaching at Berkley University in California in 1956, he was the first to talk about this subject and elaborate the truly revolutionary theory of free radicals, substances which as time passes, accumulate and attack the DNA, (our genetic inheritance) as well as the cellular mitochondria themselves, structures which are indispensable for the production of energy in our bodies.

Disturbing molecules that ruin our existence

Oxidation inside our cells depends on the same chemical reaction that makes a piece of cut apple or potato become dark, or that makes a nail become rusty. This oxidation, which is normal physiologically within correct limits, becomes altered and increased by various factors such as smoking, alcohol, poisons and stress, giving birth to excess free radicals. What are these free radicals, these disturbing molecules that are able to ruin our lives?

A sober and balanced life minimizes the risk

In normal conditions there is a state of equilibrium between the production of free radicals and them being neutralized by the body’s antI-oxidant mechanisms. A large part of oxidative stress comes from the external environmental (pollution, noise, stress, smoke, chemicals, radiation and family and social tensions). However our bodies too produce metabolic by-products, unstable and oxidizing molecules that include free radicals and specific reactive oxygen species (ROS). Acidifying our alkaline organism, and forcing it to remedy the situation with emergency mopping up measures, means producing more free radicals. Some of these molecules, like superoxide, hydrogen peroxide and nitric oxide are useful physiologically and necessary for life, but they can become poisonous if they are present in excess, or in inappropriate conditions.

The great enemy to conquer is oxidative stress

Even if our body is able to elaborate defence and control mechanisms (endogenous anti-oxidants like the enzymes superoxide dismutase, catalase, peroxidase, and other antioxidant molecules like glutathione, the hormone melatonin and even uric acid) it is not able to counteract exuberant oxidative stress. Also because excess free radicals do their damage very fast and produce serious damage almost instantly.

Young people absorb errors more easily

Which are the free radicals (FR)? The super-oxide anions O2 – (the most diffuse), hydroxyl OH -, nitric oxide NO -, the peroxide LOO -, Singlet oxygen O2+ (particularly invasive), oxygen O+ and hydrogen H-. What provokes them? Inflammations, smoking , stress, alcohol, stale air, intense, exagerated physical activity (which provokes a 50% increase in FRs, i.e. by 5,000 %). Obviously when one is young, and not just by date of birth, the organism neutralises them better.

Stress factors

When the production of FRs prevails, one encounters damage called oxidative stress, a phenomenon that drives our biological clock crazy, unleashing accelerated aging processes and a list of 50 basic pathologies that is growing day by day. Oxidative stress is fostered by chemical factors (pharmaceuticals, drugs, smoking, alcohol), physical factors (radiation, noise, electromagnetic fields, computers, mobile phones and microwave ovens), biological factors (vaccines), mental factors (depression, fear, anxiety, stress) and nutritional factors (meat based foods).

Clear verifiable effects of oxidative stress

There exist immediate and verifiable effects of oxidative stress, such as memory loss, inability to concentrate, insomnia, impotence, wrinkles, baldness, marks on the skin, decrease in muscle and increase of fat, as well as anxiety and depression and a general feeling of malaise.

Displaced electrons and radical chain reactions

Chemically speaking FRs are atoms or groups of atoms with an unpaired electron in the outermost orbit. In other words, unstable molecules, socially and chemically starved due to an exuberant electron that makes them react with other molecules, unleashing a continuous stream of reactions. In order to stabilize themselves they tend, through oxidation, to subtract an electron from others around them through radicalized chain reactions.

The formation of ros, oxygen radicals

Amongst free radicals there are oxygen radicals (ROS) that form: a) during respiratory processes, b) in enzymatic reactions implicating the transfer of electrons, c) in digestive leucocytosis, d) in perfusions and their correlated damage (e.g. the return of blood flow after a period of restriction, and relative recuperative states of inflammation), f) in the reduction oxidation reactions of proteins by cytochrome P450

P450 cytochromes, the organism’s major detoxifying molecules

P450 cytochromes, a subclass of oxidase with mixed functions, are an enzymatic super family of hemo-proteins present in all domains of life. The P450s are major actors in the detoxification of the organism, in as much as they transport electrons and facilitate permeability. They act on a large number of substrate esogens ( in pharmaceuticals and external toxins, inorganic minerals assumed through cooked food and synthetic mineral and vitamin supplements) and substrate endogens (in organic waste, cellular debris defined as viruses or better clogging factors). More than 7,500 molecules like P450 are known.


read more about anti oxidants