Exercise-induced free radicals: friend or foe?

Posted in Active Bites |
Key Facts: 
  • Previously free radicals have been thought of as damaging to health.
  • Exercise-induced free radicals may do more good than harm.
  • Eating a whole food diet can strengthen our defence systems.

‘Free radicals’ don’t usually get good press.  They’ve been hijacked as the ultimate baddies where anti-ageing is concerned.  Destructive, damaging and toxic is about the measure of it.  Antioxidants, on the other hand, protect, nurture and are all about promoting health and vitality.  But if you’re one of the many who reach for an antioxidant supplement before taking a breath in the morning, have you ever stopped to consider that free radicals produced in moderate amounts may actually be working in your favour?

Loose Canons

Reactive oxygen species, more commonly known as free radicals, are produced when we convert what we eat into energy.  The problem is they’re unstable molecules, loose cannons that zip around wreaking havoc in the body in their quest to find other molecules to attach to.  Once they attach, the other molecule becomes unstable too and it becomes like a house of cards in terms of the damage that can spread.  What we can’t get away from is that free radicals are produced all the time.  We produce them from the minute we’re born, when we exercise, when we smoke, and when exposed to radiation, UV light, pesticides and solvents.  The list goes on!

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