free radicals, lipid peroxides and anti-oxidants


Free-Radicals (FRs) or Reactive Oxygen Species (ROSs)

  • ROS are molecules with unpaired electrons that cause damage to other cells as they seek to out their missing electrons: they shoot through cell membranes, tearing holes, putting cells at risk
  • Result in oxidative stress and oxidation: Free-radical seeks and grabs any electron it can find, destroying and altering other molecules it robs
  • Cause damage to DNA and every cell in the body, as well as causing cellular and organ dysfunction (and altered function)
  • FRs destroy cells and cause: Aging, Cancer, Cardiovascular and Heart disease (amongst other diseases)

Causes of ROS in the body are:

  • Heavy metals, chemicals and trans-fats in foods, as well as many processed, packaged and denatured foods
  • Exposure to radiation, environmental toxins and breathing in organic smoke
  • Allergens, infection, stress, inflammatory conditions, liver detoxification reactions and exercise


  • Molecules that lend electrons
  • Protect from free radical damage by donating electrons to ROS’, thus neutralizing them
  • Prevent degenerative diseases, slow aging process, enhance immune function, reduce inflammation, fight allergies

Diets rich in Anti-Oxidants protect against:

  • Heart disease and strokes
  • Cancer
  • Cataracts and age-related macular degeneration
  • Cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease
  • Age-related immune dysfunction
  • Diabetes
  • Virtually every chronic degenerative disease

Anti-oxidants include: Vitamins A, C and E, Selenium, Zinc, Carotenoids, Flavonoids, Phyto-nutrients and anti-inflammatory foods

  • Mixtures of anti-oxidant nutrients work harmoniously and synergistically and compound each other’s individual function capacity when working together: 1+1=3.
  • For example: Vit C, aqueous vitamin, works on body cells composed of water; Vit E, lipid vitamin, works on body cells composed of fat (eg cell membranes)
  • Vit E – two major forms: d-alpha-tocopherol (natural source), recognised by body; dl-alpha-tocopherol (synthetic source) not recognized in body and may inhibit d- form from entering cell membranes
  • Ginkgo Biloba – has the ability to act as an anti-oxidant in the brain and in the vascular lining throughout body

Lipid peroxides

These are fats that have been subjected to damage from oxidative stress. Principally this occurs with Polyunsaturated fats due to the high number of their double carbon bonds (which make them less stable and more susceptible to damage).


Formation of lipid peroxides

  • Outside the body, factors such as heat, light and air can cause lipid peroxides to form – for example, cooking oil past its “smoke point”
  • Inside the body, oxidative stress involves biochemical reactions that do not have sufficient oxygen metabolite processing enzymes or free radical quenching molecules – the result are molecules left with single unpaired electrons (FRs or ROSs). FRs and ROSs are highly reactive – and they damage fats to form lipid peroxides.
  • Lipid peroxides act in a similar manner to trans fats – they “smear” the cell membranes as they form their phospholipid layer. In doing so, they make the cell membrane less “opaque”, resulting impaired and less “clear” communication between cells and impaired cellular control by regulating hormones. In effect, they result in impaired cell functionality.
  • High levels of lipid peroxides are correlated to: Cardiovascular problems, Cancers, Allergies, Respiratory distress syndrome

Adapted from:

Murray, M. (1998). The complete book of juicing. Roseville, CA: Prima publishing

Murray, M. (2001). Total body tune-up. New York. N.Y.: Bantam Press

Bland, J., Costarella, L., Levin, B., Liska, D., Lukaczer, D., Schlitz, B., Schmidt, M., Lerman, R., Quinn, S., Jones, D. (2004). Clinical Nutrition: A Functional Approach, Second Edition. Gig Harbor, WA: The Institute for Functional Medicine

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