To Your Health
July, 2009 (Vol. 03, Issue 07)
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Eat Your Antioxidants

Key Dietary Factors and Supplements to Help Prevent Disease

By David Seaman, MS, DC, DACBN

The Danger of Free Radicals

Free radicals are molecules that can damage numerous components of the body, including genetic material (DNA), various proteins such as enzymes, important cell membrane fats, and cholesterol. Such damage is a factor in the promotion of most chronic diseases, most notably cancer and heart disease.

Free radicals are typically associated with oxygen molecules - consider how oxygen can rust or "oxidize" metal. In the body, free radicals oxidize DNA, proteins, cell membranes, and cholesterol. Many normal metabolic reactions produce free radicals, such energy production, inflammation, and immune reactions.

Fortunately, we have a built-in system for reducing free radicals; however, this antioxidant system is dependent on the continuous delivery of key nutrients from healthy foods, such as vegetables and fruits. As you probably know by now, the average modern person does not eat adequate amounts of vegetables and fruits, which places them at risk for developing chronic diseases attributable to free-radical production.

Excess Calories & Poor Diet Help Create Free Radicals

Molecules - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark Many believe that the negative health impact of poor food choices take years to develop. We now know this to be false, and this is especially evident in the context of free-radical generation. Research has demonstrated that an important and quite underappreciated promoter of free-radical production is the overconsumption of calories, particularly sugar- and fat-rich meals in the form of desserts, snacks and fast foods. Researchers recently made the following statement in an article published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology:

"The highly processed, calorie-dense, nutrient-depleted diet favored in the current American culture frequently leads to exaggerated supraphysiological post-prandial spikes in blood glucose and lipids. This state, called post-prandial dysmetabolism, induces immediate oxidant stress, which increases in direct proportion to the increases in glucose and triglycerides after a meal."

Weeding through the scientific jargon, this means that when we do what I refer to as a drive-by, or drive-through, self-shooting at the fast food restaurant or similar establishments, the sugar and fat eaten in the meal leads to the immediate production of free radicals. This should lead us to consider the extremely unhealthy short-term consequences associated with overeating, which can only lead to disease and suffering if continued throughout a lifespan.