Free radicals have gotten a lot of negative attention in recent years. To understand why they can be dangerous to your health it’s important to understand exactly what they are.
Free radicals are atoms or groups of atoms with an odd number of electrons, which makes them unstable. They can be formed when oxygen interacts with certain molecules. In the course of their regular function, cells initiate chemical reactions that can result in the production of free radicals. Once created, they can start a chain reaction – as one free radical reacts with something else, it creates another free radical and that continues propagating. If they react with cell structures, such as DNA or the cell membrane, it may interfere with cell function or even kill the cell.
Experts believe free radicals play a significant role in aging and are factors in nearly every known disease; from heart disease to arthritis to cancer to cataracts. Lester Packer, of the University of California, Berkeley, is considered the world’s foremost antioxidant research scientist and he notes that antioxidants can control free radicals, meaning these compounds can literally be the difference between life and death.
Richard Cutler, the director anti-aging research at the National Institute of Health (NIH) adds that the level of antioxidants in your body is directly proportional to how long an individual will live.
Antioxidants are molecules which can safely interact with free radicals and terminate the chain reaction before vital molecules are damaged. Although there are several enzyme systems within the body that target free radicals, the principle antioxidants are vitamin E, beta-carotene, and vitamin C. Selenium is also necessary for some antioxidant enzyme systems to function properly. The body cannot manufacture these nutrients so they must be supplied in the diet.
The importance of antioxidants has prompted Pharmanex to develop a biophotonic scanner that measures antioxidants and provides patients a personalized skin carotenoid score (SCS) – a ballpark indication of one’s antioxidant status. Establishing this initial baseline enables people to measure their progress at improving the antioxidant levels in their bodies.
The device is based on Raman spectroscopy technology, which is behind the development of the Pharmanex BioPhotonic Scanner. The device is noninvasive, measuring a small portion of the palm of the hand. The data provides SCS within a few minutes. Chiropractors can use the information to evaluate the effectiveness of a patient’s current diet and nutrition supplementation programs and also guide any adjustments the patients need to make for improved overall wellness.
In general, foods like carrots, peppers, spinach, citrus fruit, almonds, walnuts, and flaxseeds are great sources of antioxidants. Selenium is found in turkey, chicken, sunflower seeds, and whole wheat.