is the result of a delicate balancing of tradeoffs, literally.
We must burn oxygen to produce the energy needed by our cells
to maintain their highly ordered functions. And we do this very
efficiently, much more so than even the most highly advanced
engine, producing only the harmless carbon dioxide and water.
Yet the tradeoff for this magnificently efficient process is the
production of unstable oxygen molecules that leak out of our mitochondria
during the burning process instead of being converted into water
and carbon dioxide. These are called free radicals. They consist
of an oxygen molecule with an unpaired electron that makes it
highly reactive and thus capable of attacking and damaging our
other biomolecules such as DNA, proteins, cholesterol, and the
components of our cell membranes. This damage can result in aberrantly
growingócancerousócells (when DNA is damaged), aging skin (when
collagen and elastin are damaged), and cardiovascular disease
(when the cells lining our arteries are damaged by oxidized cholesterol).
Fifty years ago, Denham Harman conceptualized this process as
the Free Radical Theory of Aging. Thus, the spark of life lights
the candle of aging.
a sense, the generation of a free radical is starting point of
the aging process. When a cell in the hypothalamus gets damaged,
then it no longer sends an appropriate signal to the pituitary
gland to release growth hormone, or luteinizing hormone (which
in turn leads to lower testosterone levels). Likewise, a damaged
cell in the testicles cannot respond as well to the LH signal,
which in turn also contributes to the age related decline in testosterone
levels. This occurs in many of our important signaling tissues
and together creates the changes of aging. This process
causes the aging process in non-signaling tissues as well.
For example, cataracts are the result of free radical damage to
the molecules in the lens of the eye; and collagen and elastin
in the skin are damaged by free radicals generated by sun damage.
process of evolution, however, has equipped us with molecules
to neutralize these free radicals before they can do damage. These
molecules go by the familiar term, 'antioxidants.' Some are enzymes
such as superoxide dismutase (SOD) and catalase (CAT), others
are smaller molecules like vitamin E, vitamin C, coenzyme Q10,
and alpha lipoic acid. Your levels of these antioxidants
determine the degree to which the free radicals can damage your
cells. Maintaining good levels of antioxidants has been
shown in many studies to decrease the incidence and severity of
the diseases of aging. Here are a few of the most popular antioxidants: vitamins, especially vitamin c and vitamin e, garlic, omega 3, selenium, glutathione, lycopene.
"Man who say it
cannot be done should not interrupt man doing it."
- Chinese Proverb
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