Radicals And Aging
Aging is inevitable. The
fine lines turn deeper and harsher. Your skin will sag, your eyes
will droop. The youthful fullness of your cheeks will no longer
remain. There is a theory that free radicals are responsible for
aging. It is thought that free radicals begin aging the skin since
these harmful oxygen molecules damage cells, and that damage accumulates
over time. Free radicals are to aging what rust is to iron. They
are comparable since the damage free radicals cause to the body
is closely related to oxidative damage. Luckily, there are antioxidants
such as vitamin C and D that prevent oxidation and scavenge free
radicals to undo their harm.
The effect free radicals have on the aging process is probably the
less of its maladies. A free radical is a molecule with an unpaired
electron that damages cells. This damage is thought to potentially
lead to serious ailments like heart disease, diabetes, macular dystrophy,
and cancer. Still, many have studied free radicals and how they
affect aging. Denham Harman was the first to propose the free radical
theory of aging in the 1950s, and although his study has the most
support, more information is needed to distinguish the exact role
that free radicals have on aging.
Harman’s free radical theory of aging was revolutionary, since
many scientists at the time didn’t even believe that free
radicals could live in a biological system. They also hadn’t
linked free radicals to diseases, let alone aging. Harman’s
theory was that oxygen consumption was contrary to lifespan, and
that oxygen free radicals explained hyperbaric oxygen toxicity and
radiation toxicity. Meaning that if radiation was harmful enough
to cause cancer and aging, the oxygen free radicals produced with
simple breathing could lead to disease and eventually death.
Today, tests are still being conducted to prove whether free radicals
do have an effect on aging. The tests have come back against and
for the theory.