Why do we age— the free radical theory of aging

Human age—this fundamental rule of life is for the sake of species survival; and no —no one can stop it.  Yes—we all know this at an abstract level.  However, when it comes down to the individual level, none of us wants to age.   For me personally, it’s really just about feeling great and looking great for as long as I can so I don’t have to face the reality of aging.

To slow down the aging process, we need to understand the process of aging first.  Unfortunately, there isn’t one slam-dunk theory capturing the “truth” of aging.  There are many scientific theories.   In the next few posts, we will discuss each theory.  This post is about the free radical theory of aging—the most popular of them all.

The free radical theory of aging:  Free radicals, or Reactive Oxygen Species (ROD), are the toxic byproducts of normal cell metabolism in an oxygen-rich world, which is a world we are living in.  Natural substances within cells such as antioxidants can clean up and neutralize the dangerous free radicals.  Those free radicals that escape the cleanup process damage DNA, proteins and mitochondria (organelles within cells that produce energy).  The resulting damage, which is called oxidative damage, accumulates over time, leading to genome instability, and is considered the primary cause of the aging process.

Many skincare and anti-aging products are developed based on the theory that  oxidative damage is the most important aspect of the aging.  Check out a drug store shelf—you will find tons of products with the word “antioxidant” in the product description.  The common antioxidants in skincare products are Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Q10, and various phyto-antioxidants such as flavonoids, flavones, and polyphenols.  All are effective with proper dosage and with regular consumption.

To counter oxidative damage caused aging, do load up antioxidants in your daily diet.  Many fruits and vegetables are packed with antioxidants—because antioxidants are the plants’ natural defense against the oxidative damage to them.  My personal favorite? Cocoa, i.e., dark chocolate!  Dark chocolate is loaded with organic compounds that are biologically active and function as antioxidants. These include polyphenols, flavanols, catechins, among others. One study showed that cocoa and dark chocolate contained more antioxidant activity, polyphenols and flavanols than other fruits they tested including blueberries and Acai berries.1  Therefore, indulge in delicious taste of dark chocolate and fight the free radical caused aging as the an added benefit.

Thanks for reading!

Journal Reference:  Crozier, SJ et al. Cacao seeds are a “Super Fruit”: A comparative analysis of various fruit powders and products, Chemistry Central Journal 2011; 5:5 DOI: 10.1186/1752-153X-5-5

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