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Free radicals are produced from the natural process of oxidation, This phenomenon occurs when oxygen molecules are involved in chemical reactions; they lose one atom in their molecules, these molecules or free radicals will then take electrons from nearby molecules, thus setting off a chain reaction of collateral damage ultimately called free radicals damage which has been linked to wrinkles, skin sagging, aging, graying and illness. It starts the destruction of the skins structural support and decreases elasticity, resilience, and suppleness. Anything that contains oxygen like carbon monoxide, hydrogen peroxide, and other sources can cause free radical damage.

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ageless skin

Other causes include radiation (x-rays, gamma-rays), smoking (carbon monoxide), inorganic particles (silica, asbestos, quartz), and gases from the ozone layer. Excessive exercises also form free radicals. Apart from oxygen being the major contributor of free radicals, certain types of fats also cause excessive free radical formation. They are polyunsaturated fats: common in margarine, salad dressing, and in many types of oils like corn oil, sunflower oil, and safflower oil.  Fat from this oil contains two or more double bonds between carbons. Polyunsaturated fats are more prone to lipids peroxidation since they have an increased number of double bonds which form significant numbers of free radicals in the form of lipid peroxide radicals.

Healthy monounsaturated fats are found in olive oil, Avocado oil, and most vegetable oils. Hydrogenated fats are common in margarine, commercial peanut butter, vegetable shortenings and are also known as transfat. This fat is double trouble for the cholesterol as it raises the level of “bad”(LDL) cholesterol and lowers the level of “good “(HDL) cholesterol causing heart problems. It is made by adding hydrogen to vegetable oil through hydrogenation. This fat is also common in crackers, cookies, and cakes. In processed foods look for the label “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil” and that is your transfat. It also affects the permeability of cell membranes which inadvertently impairs the cell membrane’s functions.

 When free radicals are involved, a young person can have sagging skin and with the proper investigation you will find out that fruits and vegetables are lacking in their diets.                           

Thankfully there are antioxidants that erase these effects. Antioxidants are molecules that neutralize the harmful effects of free radicals in the body. Recent studies also suggest that antioxidants may prevent some forms of cancer. The human body produces antioxidants like superoxide dismutase (SOD), Glutathione, and Catalase which neutralizes most of the free radicals when we live a healthy lifestyle. There are two types of antioxidants; those produced by our body and those found in food and vitamins that we consume in our diet.  Antioxidants produced by the body need to be maintained by eating foods rich in the basic minerals and vitamins.

1. Antioxidants produced by the body

  1. Superoxide dismutase (SOD); is made from copper, manganese and zinc and food rich in this minerals include ; Whole grains and nuts (copper and manganese); meat, egg, yolk, oatmeal, legumes and nuts (zinc)
  2. Glutathione: is an essential antioxidant that helps protect cell membrane. Glutathione rich food includes; cabbage, broccoli, asparagus, avocados, walnuts, yogurt, wheat germ, oats, onions, and garlic.
  3. Catalase: This is an enzyme that converts hydrogen peroxide into oxygen and water. It oxygenates the epidermis and results in younger-looking skin. Catalase supplying foods include potatoes, wheatgrass and sprout, vegetables (onions, leek, spinach, cucumbers, parsnip) and avocados. Fruits like kiwi, peaches, apricot, banana, pineapple, watermelon and cherries). Apples and grapes have a lower content. Although catalase is produced naturally by the body, the level decreases with age; so there is a need for a healthy lifestyle to secure beautiful skin.

2. Antioxidants from foods & vitamins

  Eating healthy foods can increase the level of antioxidants in the body, enhance good skin, reduces graying and wrinkles. The most notable sources of antioxidants in foods are;

  1. Vitamin C:  is a vital water-soluble vitamin that helps restore vitamin E to its full potency so that it can neutralize free radicals; it is a remedy for both cold and cancer. It is best taken with meals, up to (250-500mg daily) and foods rich in vitamin C are guava, green peppers, fruits, cabbage and many other fruits and vegetables. Vitamin C also promotes iron absorption from foods (note that elevated iron levels may lead to plague formation and iron-containing food like meat, chicken, soya beans etc should be taken in moderation when taking this vitamin). Vitamin C provides resistance to infection, controls blood cholesterol levels, makes folic acid active, produces anti-stress hormones as well as brain and nerve substances. The best source of vitamin C is orange, or grapefruits juice which has about 188mg of Vitamin C.
  2. Vitamin E: is a fat soluble vitamin found in foods, it decreases the oxidation of lipid membranes, guards the heart and blood vessels against oxidation by free radicals and protects the tissues of the breast, liver, eyes, skin and testes. It is an anti-blood-clotting agent, blood vessel dilator and also maintains health blood vessels. It increases the level of safe or good cholesterol (HDL) and promotes the ability of blood cells to resist infection. The best vitamin E supplement is the one from natural products (plants) and not from petroleum products. The natural plant product is labeled “d-alpha tocopherol” or d- alpha tocopheryl while the petroleum-based is labeled as dl-alpha-tocopherolNatural sources include foods such as seeds, nuts, vegetable oils, shrimps, tomatoes, meats, green leafy vegetables, root veggies and pulses. Other sources are wheat germ oil, sunflower seed and almonds.
  3. Vitamin A: is fat soluble and also known as Retinol. Its functions in sight, skin, mucous membranes and bone. It is anti-infective and anti-anemic. It is essential in protein synthesis and growth processes and is mostly found foods of animal origin like liver, cheese, eggs and fish liver oil but its active precursor beta-carotene is present in fruits and vegetables. Beta carotene is converted in the body to Vitamin A. The best form of beta carotene is found in carrot, (which contains alpha-carotene) and tomato (contains lycopene) and both alpha-carotene and lycopene are better than beta-carotene.      Vitamin A helps in night vision and promotes healthy skin; most acne and anti-aging skincare products contains Retinol A and Accutane, both derived from vitamin A. Also note that excessive Vitamin A can cause headache, nausea, vomiting, dry skin, hair loss and liver damage. (Therefore only 5000 units/day is recommended.)
  4. Selenium: This mineral is an essential constituent of enzymes most of which plays the role of antioxidants in the body. It is also a component of glutathione and also boosts the immune system. It works best when combined with vitamin E. Selenium also plays important roles in thyroid functions and the sources of this important nutrient are; wheat germ, brewer’s yeast, oats, whole-wheat, brown rice, butter, fruits and vegetables. Selenium is essential in maintaining healthy hair and skin; it protects against skin cancer induced by excessive UV light.  Talk to your doctor about the daily recommended dosage you should take.
  5. Coenzyme Q10: This antioxidant is produced naturally by the body but its production is usually not enough. It plays an important role in cellular regeneration. It energizes the skin, protect against photo-sensitive aging and sun burn; it rejuvenates the skin by stimulating skin activity and promotes collagen production. It in a potent antioxidant that in used in premium anti-aging skincare products and it protects the skin against cancer. This nutrient is found in peanuts, spinach, sardines and beef. It is found in all living organisms hence most foods contains traces of it. However, there are many Coenzyme Q10 Supplements out there.     

3. Antioxidants from Plants.

  1. Grapeseed Extract: This extract is made from the ground seeds of red wine grapes; though the moderate drinking of red wine is attributed to low incidents of heart diseases and cancer, the seed of the grape is one of the strongest antioxidants known. It has twenty times more antioxidant them Vitamin C; fifty times more them Vitamin E and more bioflavonoid. It protects against cancer and heart diseases; it guards the skin and organs against aging.
  2. Tomatoes:  contains lycopene which is a more active antioxidant than beta carotene.  This strong phyto-nutrient also prevents cancer of the colon and prostate.  Both processed and cooked tomatoes contain more lycopene than fresh ones.  Lycopene base capsules are now sold in supplement stores.
  3. Carrots: this has beta-carotene and other carotenoids.
  4. Cruciferous vegetables:  This includes cabbages, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts supplies in the body with phyto-chemicals that aid the body to detoxify cancer-causing estrogens.
  5. Garlic & Onions; Consumption of a high amount of garlic and onion is necessary for the prevention of stomach ulcers. With other benefits such as preventing heart disease, lowering cholesterol and triglycerides; as well as lowering blood pressure and preventing blood clots, the antioxidant properties of garlic are more desirable than its unpleasant smell on the breath.
  6. Green tea;– contains polyphenols whose antioxidant properties are 200 times more than that of Vitamin E and 500 times more than Vitamin C. and daily intake prevents cancer of the esophagus.
  7. Soy; contains protease inhibitors and plant estrogens also known as isoflavones which are able to stop cancer cells from creating new blood vessels. Regular consumption of soy products prevents both breast and prostate cancer.
  8. Berries & Nuts; contains ellagic acid which is a cancer-suppressing antioxidant that neutralizes cancer cells. They also protect our chromosomes. Examples are strawberries, bilberries, elderberries. blueberries, etc.

An excerpt from the book STAINLESS SKIN BY ANNE EDUN, available on AMAZON.

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