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Antioxidants, Free Radicals and the Harmful Effects of Aging

antioxidants and free radicalsAntioxidants are an important part of a healthy diet, but until recent years, they didn’t get a whole lot of press. That’s because until recently, there hadn’t been a lot of research on what they were and how they worked in the body to help stave off disease and keep the aging processes in check.

Today, we know there are lots of reasons to include antioxidants in our diets, but many people still aren’t entirely sure what they do. To understand how they work, we have to take a quick trip back to chemistry class to learn about free radical atoms.

The body contains billions of cells, many of which aid in metabolism, which is essentially the conversion of food into usable energy. You may remember that cells are made up of atoms, which have a nucleus filled with protons and rings (OK, valences) containing electrons. In stable atoms and molecules, the numbers of protons and electrons are equal; when they aren’t equal, the atom or molecule is said to be unstable, and it spends a lot of time trying to either add or get rid of electrons so it can become stable.

Free radicals lack electrons, and in the process of trying to become stable, they wind up harming other molecules, causing microscopic damage that can result in significant health issues over time, including premature aging. Antioxidants help by providing “extra” electrons to free radicals, essentially stabilizing them and making them harmless.

To make sure you’re getting enough antioxidants, you may think all you have to do is bulk up on as many supplements as you can. But that’s not a healthy option to take. As it turns out, free radicals aren’t all bad – in fact, they perform some critical immune functions that help us ward off disease and infection. That means it’s essential to get the perfect balance of free radicals and antioxidants to maximize their important anti-aging benefits.

Including antioxidant rich nutrients and even supplements is often suggested as a method to reduce free radicals but it is unlikely that haphazard ingestion of antioxidants will provide the optimum levels that you need.

As a leading functional medicine physician, Dr. Waller understands the important role antioxidants play in anti-aging programs and in total body health – and she also understands how difficult it can be to figure out how to balance antioxidant-rich foods and supplements in your daily diet so you get maximum benefits without “overdoing it.” Working with men and women throughout the Rochester Hills area, Dr. Waller identifies each person’s unique health needs to develop an overall health and wellness plan that helps ensure a healthy balance of antioxidants and other critical nutrients so you can enjoy optimal health.

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