Why You Should Care About Free Radicals
Did you ever wonder why apple slices start to turn brown when you leave them out on the picnic table?
Or why unprotected metal left outside will start to rust?
Here’s the reason: free radical damage.
Free radicals are rogue oxygen molecules that are missing an electron, and will, therefore, attack anything in sight in search of a missing mate. The damage they do is called oxidative damage, or oxidation. It’s what happens to the apple slices, it’s what happens to the rusting metal, it’s what happens to your skin when exposed to too much sun, and it happens in your body—to every cell, to every organ, even to your DNA.
Dr. Sinatra and I identified oxidative damage as one of the four major promoters of heart disease in our book, “The Great Cholesterol Myth”. Dr. Traylor and I identified oxidative damage as one of the major causes of aging in
Oxidative damage (i.e. free radical damage) is no joke. There’s even a theory called “The Free Radical Theory Of Aging” that holds that aging is nothing more than “rusting from within.” Even cholesterol doesn’t become a problem in the body until it’s oxidized.
The free radicals that cause all this oxidative damage can come from many things. Oxygen, certainly. But also toxins, household cleaners, pesticides, cigarettes, and air pollution. Your first action should be to limit your exposure to things that are obviously toxic (i.e. cigarettes and car exhaust and chemicals).
Foods can also be potent sources of free radicals, especially fried foods, and especially meat that’s barbequed at high heat. Tip: Marinate the meat in a rich mix of spices, and barbeque at a lower heat. And instead of fried foods, load up your plate with antioxidant-rich berries, dark chocolate, nuts, beans, and leafy vegetables. Even if you still eat the French fries, those antioxidants will help mitigate some of the damage!)
Anti-oxidants do exactly what their name implies—they are the antidote to oxidative damage. We all know the important dietary antioxidants– Vitamin C, Vitamin E, and so on – but an even more important antioxidant is made in the human body and can’t be effectively obtained from supplements or diet. It’s called glutathione.
Two other tips to help your body rid itself of excess free radicals:
1. Top off your glutathione levels. Glutathione is the body’s master antioxidant. It mops up free radicals better, faster, and more effectively than just about any other substance. The body makes glutathione on its own, but as we age, our enzymes that make glutathione get weaker. There have been attempts over the years to make oral glutathione supplements, but for the most part, they haven’t been effective.
Thankfully science is always evolving, and now there’s a safe way to prompt your body to make more. Glyteine, available in Continual-G products, works as a molecular signal that prompts the body to start producing more glutathione. In a couple of hours, you’ll have more glutathione in your cells, which is exactly where it’s needed.
2. Upgrade your sleep. A lot of really important things happen when you sleep, and bad things happen if you are sleep deprived. It turns out that one of the major things that happen during sleep is the repair of oxidative damage. Even the most powerful antioxidants on the planet won’t be put to full use if you’re not getting enough sleep and if you’re not getting good quality of sleep. That’s why it’s especially important right now to keep a consistent sleep schedule.
And if you’re not getting enough sleep and would like to extend your time in bed—and who wouldn’t—there’s a “right” and a “wrong” way to do it. Contrary to popular opinion staying in bed later doesn’t work nearly as well as going to bed earlier. Try adding sleep time by going to bed a half-hour earlier every night for a week, and when you’re acclimated to that, add another half-hour.
Your metabolism, your mental health, and your waistline will all thank you.