(012) 361 1075

By Dr. A.J. Ford

A radical, often called a free radical is an atom or group of atoms that have one or more unpaired electrons. Radicals can have positive, negative or neutral charge. They are formed as necessary intermediates in a variety of normal biochemical reactions, but when generated in excess or not appropriately controlled, radicals can wreak havoc on a broad range of macromolecules. A prominent feature of radicals is that they have extremely high chemical reactivity, which explains not only their normal biological activities, but how they inflict damage on cells and DNA.

There are many types of radicals, but those of most concern in biological systems are derived from oxygen, and known collectively as reactive oxygen species (ROS). Oxygen has two unpaired electrons in separate orbital in its outer shell. This electronic structure makes oxygen especially susceptible to radical formation. Reduction of molecular oxygen leads to the formation of a group of highly reactive oxygen species:
• superoxide anion
• peroxide (hydrogen peroxide)
• hydroxyl radical

Oxygen-derived radicals are generated constantly as part of normal aerobic and biological systems (variety of enzyme reactions). They are formed in mitochondria as oxygen is reduced along the electron transport chain. Examples of situations in which oxygen radicals are overproduced in cells include:
• white blood cells producing oxygen radicals which are used in host defense to kill invading bacteria
• cells exposed to abnormal environments – hypoxia, number of drugs etc.
• ionizing radiation that generates oxygen radicals
• smoking and excessive consumption of alcohol
• exposure to environmental pollutants – emissions from automobiles and industry (heavy metal toxicity)
• abundance of processed foods in the diet
• stressful life style

As a result of excessive numbers of free radicals, the following major diseases are related to reactive oxygen species (free radicals):

• neurodegenerative disorders
• respiratory disease
• skin pathologies
• inflammatory diseases
• cataract and macular degeneration
• coronary heart disease
• hormonal dysfunctions
• obesity
• diabetes
• cancer
• ageing

Life on earth evolved in the presence of oxygen, and necessarily adapted by evolution of a battery of antioxidant systems. Some of these antioxidant molecules are present in all life forms, from bacteria to mammals, indicating their appearance early in the history of life. There are a number of antioxidants that protect us on a daily basis against free radicals, and these are known as secondary antioxidants, meaning that they have other primary functions in the body and only act on quenching free radicals if they are around.
For example Vitamin E is an antioxidant but is regenerated through the activity of the antioxidant Vitamin C and glutathione. Other antioxidants are beta-carotene, vitamin A, selenium, riboflavin, polyphenols, flavanoids, catechin and tannin.

However, the enzymatic antioxidants are the most important and play a significant role in protecting cells from oxidative stress:

• superoxide dismutase (SOD) – are enzymes that catalyze the conversion of two superoxides into hydrogen peroxide and oxygen. SOD’s are metal containing enzymes that depend on bound manganese, zinc and copper for their antioxidant activity.
• catalase is found in peroxisomes in eukaryotic cells and they degrade hydrogen peroxide to water and oxygen and hence finishes the detoxification reaction started by SOD.
• Glutathione peroxidase is a group of enzymes, the most abundant of which contains selenium. They degrade hydrogen peroxide and reduce organic peroxides to alcohols, thus providing another route for eliminating toxic oxidants.

Glisodin is the only product on the market that fulfils all the requirements of the above enzymatic antioxidant and is obtainable from the practice.

Oxidative Stress Assessment
The practice has recently introduced a device that can measure your levels of oxidative stress. The FORM (free oxygen radical monitor) is a small sophisticated photometer that measures the status between oxidative stress and antioxidants which is involved in maintaining health, wellness and longevity. These levels are determined from blood taken from a finger prick and are analyzed in 10 minutes.

Although the healthcare field is increasingly aware of the importance of free radicals and oxidative stress, the monitoring and screening to date still has to become routine practice.
The FORM is a first in South Africa introduced by this practice.

The free oxygen radical testing is measured and expressed in mmol/H2O2 units, or FORT units.
• below 230 FORT units = good
• 230 – 310 FORT units = borderline
• 310 – 400 FORT units = oxidative stress
• 400 – 500 FORT units = high oxidative stress
• 500 – 600 FORT units = serious condition (probably cancer)

The free oxygen radicals defense (how well your radical defense is working) is measured in mmol/Trolox units.
Reference range values:
• greater than 1.53 mmol/Trolox = optimal defense against free radical attach
• 1.07 – 1.53 mmol/Trolox = border line defense
• Less than 1.07 mmol/Trolox = deficiency status/defense

Glisodin, as well as the Free Oxygen Radical Defense Test is now available at the practice – please enquire at reception.
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