The Free Radical Theory

The free radical theory was firstly introduced in 1954 by Robert Gerschman and later was developed by Dr. Denham Harman from the University of Nebraska. The term “free radical” is used by the scientists to describe any molecule which is different from conventional molecules.

Actually, free radicals posses a free electron and, therefore, they are able to react with other molecules in destructive and volatile ways. In contrast to free radicals, in conventional molecules the electrical charge is always balanced meaning that electrons are able to come in pairs and their electrical energies simply cancel their charges.

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In other words, conventional molecules have negative electrical charge because atoms which miss electrons are combined with atoms with excessive number of electrons, and, in the result, a stable molecule with paired electrons and neutral charge is created. (Theories of Aging 2004)
In contrast to conventional molecules, free radicals always possess extra negative charge. The result is apparent: unbalanced electrical energy makes free radicals attach themselves to other molecules and steal “a matching electron to attain electrical equilibrium”.
However, it is necessary to note that free radials are often claimed to be promiscuous meaning that they break happy marriages of combined electrons trying to steal happy partner for themselves. In such a way free electrons create free radicals which definitely lead to extensive damage of cells and human body. So, activity of free radicals within human body is negative as they cause aging process.
If there were no free radicals, human bodies would be able to produce energy and to maintain immunity. Moreover, our bodies would manage to transmit nerve impulses and to synthesize hormones necessary for our muscles.
Nevertheless, electricity of the body makes people perform these functions, but electricity is the result of unbalanced electron activity of free radicals within out body. (Theories of Aging 2004)
Further, free radicals are known to damage the structure of human cell membrane by creating so-called metabolic waste products. One of such waste products is substance called lipofuscins. His effect is damaging as, for example, excessive amount of lipofuscins leads to emergence of aging spot or darkness of the skin in certain areas.
Moreover, this substance reduces significantly abilities of cells to restore and to reproduce. The synthesis of DNA and RNA is disturbed as well the synthesis of protein. Next, lipofuscins lowers energy levels preventing in such a way human bodies from building muscles. (Theories of Aging 2004)
Consequently, cellular enzymes are destroyed, but they are necessary for vital chemical processes without which the aging process starts. Free-radical damage starts from the birth and continues throughout out life till natural death.
During childhood and adolescents free-radical processes are minor as they body still is provided with repair and replacement mechanism. Health young people have healthy organs and working order. However, when people become older free-radical processes begin to take their toll.
Scientists say that “free-radical disruption of cell metabolism is part of what ages our cells; it may also create mutant cells leading ultimately to cancer and death”. (Theories of Aging 2004)
Finally, free radicals damage collagen and elastin which are responsible for keeping our skin moist, elastic and flexible. Under influence of free radicals, human vital tissues are breaking and fraying. This process is noticeable in the face – folds of skin and deep wrinkles are the results of free-radical damage.
Gerontologists argue that “another way of looking at free-radical changes is to think of its as oxidation, the process of adding oxygen to a substance. Another word for oxidation is rust and in a sense our aging process is analogous to the rusting away of a once-intact piece of metal”.
(Theories of Aging 2004) Oxygen forms are free radicals and while breathing we produce free radical which intensify the process of aging. Antioxidants are substances used to prevent harmful effects of oxidation and free radicals. We should pay attention to vitamins C, B and beta carotene to fight aging process.
Theories of Aging. (2004). Retrieved November 29, 2007, from

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