You may have heard people talk about free radicals before, but do you have any idea what they are? I didn’t, but I did some research on free radicals to try to give you a “For Dummies” perspective on the topic of free radicals. Free radicals do not really affect weight loss, but they do harm your overall health. If you’re not healthy, then weight loss is kind of a moot point.
In general, a free radical is any molecule that has a single unpaired electron in its outer shell. To understand why that matters, you need to go back to Chemistry 101.
The atoms in your body contain protons and electrons, and these atoms make up molecules that are the building blocks of your living cells. On the outside of the atom are those little electrons floating around, looking to reach maximum stability of the atom by filling out their outer shell with its required number of electrons. Atoms with full outer shells will tend to not enter into chemical reactions. The laws of chemistry state that atoms will always try to reach maximum stability.
If the outermost shell of electrons is not full, the atom will try to fill the void, or empty out its electrons in that shell. It can fill the void by sharing electrons with another cell. The unstable atoms “steal” electrons from stable molecules, causing the molecule itself to become a free radical, leading to a chain reaction that can disrupt the life of a living cell.
When the body metabolizes food, cells break down. Usually the breakdown results in stable atoms, but it’s not always the case. Sometimes the body’s immune system will create free radicals to neutralize viruses and bacteria. But this is natural and this level of free radical activity can be handled by our bodies.
Free radical damage was not a problem in early human history. But since the Industrial Revolution, we’ve been adding more and more pollution and other toxic particles into our environment. Toxic metals in your body can increase the free radical chain reaction by thousands to millions of times its normal rate.
Our environment is the cause of chemical destabilization of the molecules in the human body. Things like radiation, pollution, herbicides and pesticides, and smoking cause the free radical creation process to speed up in the body, thus causing damage to the body’s cells over time. Free radical damage within cells has been linked to many disorders that include cancer, arthritis, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes.
Free radicals cause damage to our cell membranes, causing these cells to harden up or breakdown. If the cell wall (membrane) is hardened, it becomes nearly impossible for that cell to get nutrients or perform its natural cellular functions. Free radicals can also cause damage to our RNA and DNA.
Antioxidants are molecules that are capable of slowing or preventing free radical damage to healthy molecules. Vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin E and so on can prevent free radicals from oxidizing your healthy molecules. There are numerous studies that show that antioxidants can slow the aging process and prevent diseases.
Keeping an eye on what you eat is the easiest way to reduce free radical damage. Are you eating meats that come from a toxic environment, or have a diet full of highly synthetic and processed foods? Is your diet lacking in antioxidant rich foods like fruits and vegetables? By sticking to an all-natural (or close enough) diet, you not only get your fill of antioxidant foods, but reduce the amount of processed and unhealthy foods that can cause free radical damage.
Green tea has been incredibly effective for fighting free radical damage. Whether you take it as a drink, or in the form of a green tea weight loss product, green tea is proven to be an antioxidant rich source. Of course, remember what supplements are! They “supplement” a healthy diet so don’t expect them to work as effectively as they can if your diet is poor.
Extreme calorie restriction has been shown to improve health and slow the aging process. Obviously, this is a pretty extreme measure for most people. Some people restrict calories every single day, while others fast for a few days every once in a while. You should never really “fast” for the sole purpose of losing weight. It takes a hard mind to stick a calorie restriction plan, but its purpose should be to improve your overall health.
For the sake of length of this article, you can read more about calorie restriction on wikipedia.