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Oxidants / Free radicals and their consequences

What are free radicals / oxidants?

Free radicals are atoms or molecules that have one or more unpaired electrons and therefore react very readily. They are capable of modifying and/or compromising practically all chemical compounds that occur in the body. This is caused by the tendency of unpaired electrons to break the attraction that keeps other electrons in a compound.

Illustration of oxidative processes
Illustration of oxidative processes

Free radicals attract single electrons away from intact structures (in this case a molecule). The molecules or atoms that are attacked in this way then become free radicals themselves. A chain-type radical transfer reaction takes place. (Graphic: AIRNERGY AG)

The formation of free radicals is a part of the normal metabolic process; however, excessive quantities of free radicals lead to pathogenic oxidative stress.

This is promoted/caused by:   

  • Uptake of environmental toxins (airborne pollutants, heavy metals, pesticides)
  • Consumption of alcohol, tobacco and foods that are rich in fat
  • Physical and mental overexertion (excessive training, stress)  
  • Consumption of various medications (antibiotics, hormone preparations such as the “pill”, painkillers)
  • UV radiation and ozone pollution
  • Chemotherapy and radiation therapy

What are the effects of “oxidative stress”?

Excessive amounts of free radicals lead to oxidative stress and the continuing oxidation processes initiated thereby can cause damage to healthy cell membranes and other biological structures.

The loss of an electron turns the oxidised molecules into free radicals themselves. A dangerous chain reaction is initiated, which creates a steady stream of new, aggressive particles. These destructive processes at the cellular level significantly aggravate the following health problems.

  • Acidosis
  • Immunodeficiency
  • Vascular diseases and consequences thereof (e.g., heart attack, stroke)
  • Neurodegenerative diseases (Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s)  
  • Tumour diseases
  • Genetic material damage
  • Accelerated aging process