10th September 1994. Free Radicals: Good and Bad.

‘Free Radicals are implicated in Parkinson’s Disease; taking Vitamin E will prevent heart attacks and anti-ageing creams containing Free Radical scavengers’, as The Lancet reported Today in 1994, ‘suggests Antioxidants have become ‘hot’ news.'(1)

Radicals of which there are many types, in the biological system, derive from Oxygen, which has 2 unpaired electrons in its outer atom shell. (see diagram below). Thus Oxygen is susceptible to extremely reactive and transient Radical Formation.(2)


To achieve stability these Radicals attack stable molecules by stealing electrons, so leading to a chain-reaction cascade of Oxidation which disrupts living cells in a process of Lipid (fat) Peroxide.

However normally bonds are tightly bound, BUT when the bond is weak, it can split, resulting in unstable and highly reactive Radicals and damage to bodily cells.

However nothing in biochemistry is simple, so the flip-side is that Radicals are beneficial for the Immune System, when an ‘oxidation burst’ causes bodily immune cells-phagocytes- to release Radicals  as part of a cocktail that kill and digest bacteria and viruses.(3)


How to combat the ill-effects of Radicals? Antioxidant scavengers-Flavenoids-are particularly found in some foods-chocolate and tea tannins-said to protect cells from oxidation damage.(4)

Antioxidants supply mislaid electrons, or take away the additional electron to stabilise the possibility of the threatening chain reaction. In the process the antioxidants become Radicals themselves, but their structure is less volatile, therefore no harm is caused to other molecules.

‘Supplement freaks’ beware, because as with vitamins, an overdose can have the opposite effect, as too much antioxidant can turn into a pro-oxidant.

However Holland and Barratt wouldn’t still be in business if we weren’t hooked on supplements as the elixir of life.

(1) Vitamin E is the most abundant fat soluble antioxidant in the body and the primary defender against oxidation.

Vitamin C is the most abundant water soluble antioxidant which helps by neutralising Free Radicals by donating one of their electrons.

(2) Thus fruit is affected by blemishing and eventually rotting, a process which can be retarded by lemon juice (citric acid).

(3) Free radicals also produce essential hormones (biological messengers) ,also stimulate enzyme generation for example prostaglandins (chemical regulators of the body).

(4) The Flavenoids is an example of small molecules which act as antioxidants.



The Lancet. Sept. 10th 1994.V 344 : n.8924 p.721/4.


What is oxidation? @Wise Geek, BBC News. Thursday online report August 24thh 2006 re flavenoids, discussed health giving props.Vitamin D Rickets. The  Independent Mon 25.7.2011.


the conversation.com/untrue story of antioxidents.




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About colindunkerley

My name is Colin Dunkerley who having spent two years in the Royal Army Pay Corps ploughed many a barren industrial furrow until drawn to the 'chalk-face' as a teacher, now retired. I have spent the last 15 years researching all aspects of life in Britain since Roman times.

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