About Free Radicals & Antioxidants
What are free radicals?All living matter is composed entirely of molecules, which are made up of atoms and electrons. Ordinarily, electrons occur in balanced pairs and keep atoms and molecules stable. Sometimes, however, a molecule loses one of its electrons and therefore becomes unbalanced and highly reactive. The unstable molecule is known as a "Free Radical".
Free radicals are products of normal respiration and metabolism. They are also produced during exposure to air pollutants, sun, radiation from X-rays, drugs, viruses, bacteria, parasites, dietary fats, emotional stress, and physical trauma, injury, or infections. Free radicals destroy cells by damaging their membranes. When the cell membrane cannot achieve proper nutrient intake and waste removal, then the cell cannot reproduce itself or function properly. The result is cell death and therefore, an accelerated aging process as tissues lose function due to steady depletion of cells.
Antioxidants - Combating Free RadicalsAntioxidants are molecules that neutralize and deactivate free radicals. By donating electrons, antioxidants can convert free radicals into harmless compounds that may be safely removed from the body.
In normal conditions, a system of nutritional and internal antioxidant defenses generally minimizes free radical production, thus minimizing oxidative stress and subsequent tissue damage. However, under conditions where excess free radicals are produced, the body needs additional sources of antioxidants. These additional antioxidants can be obtained through nutritional supplementation. Examples of well-known antioxidants are vitamins A, C and E, beta-carotene, zinc and selenium. Antioxidants are likely to be most beneficial for older pets and for pets that are very active or undergoing strenuous training. However, in addition to the daily diet of any pet, antioxidants may help maintain optimum health in the gastrointestinal and cardiovascular systems, liver, kidneys, eyes and immune systems. They help protect cartilage and collagen in the joints and allow nutrients to be effectively used for new cell growth.