Free Radical Structure

Basics of Free Radicals

The free radical structure is very interesting and understanding it helps us to understand the harmful effects of free radicals and the relationship between an antioxidant and free radicals.

First let’s have a bit of historical perspective.

We have come some way in our knowledge of disease prevention since the 19th century work of Louis Pasteur (1822-1895). Fortunately medical practitioners are now beginning to take a more holistic approach as seen in leading medical journals as evidenced by the editorial position of the Journal of the American Medical Association by Dr. Ranjit Chandra: “The era of nutrient supplements to support health and reduce illness is hereto stay”. (JAMA 1997: 1398) Unfortunately only a minority of health professionals are informed about nutrition and nutritional supplements.

Western medicine has developed over the last 150 years largely as a result of Pasteur’s view that the body is “a sterile machine that will operate properly unless a foreign substance is introduced” (J.F. Balch, M.D., The Super Anti-Oxidants, 1998, p. 2).

Following this theory western medicine, in simple terms, attributes illness to the entry of a specific microbe into the body producing a specific disease that can be combated with a specific drug, antibiotic or chemical. This approach has been very successful in treating, but not preventing, certain illnesses and guarding against infections.

It is ironic that Pasteur’s contemporary, Claude Bernard (1813-1878) and his approach to disease and its prevention and treatment have been largely forgotten. Bernard taught that microbes could not cause a disease unless the milieu or environment was unbalanced and thus conducive to the disease. It is even more ironic that on his deathbed Pasteur commented, “Bernard is right. The microbe is nothing. The environment is all important”. (Balch, 2) In brief the body and its immune system are in Bernard’s view, more important than the microbes that might enter it.

Imagine for a moment how much further ahead we would be had western medicine followed both these streams in a parallel, or even better a linked fashion. Fortunately some medical doctors and a few medical schools are beginning to look at prevention and treatment of diseases through improvement of the host – the body and its immune system. Free radical structure is part of the way forward.

Please don’t misinterpret what I am saying. I am not knocking western medicine and its numerous and tremendous accomplishments. I am just arguing for a more comprehensive, holistic approach.

An excess of free radicals in the body causes cumulative tissue damage. Over time this cumulative damage leads to degenerative diseases like heart and cardiovascular disease, stroke, cancer, arthritis, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s Dementia and many others. We can control free radicals and keep them in a good balance in our bodies with the use of antioxidant vitamins and their cofactor minerals. These are natural processes occurring in our body. But they have been thrown out of kilter by a number of factors covered in the section

Why we need supplements (opens new window).

To learn about something else that that has been dramatically thrown out of kilter in the modern world

click here - Electro Magnetic Pollution. (opens new window).


• Free Radicals consist of unstable oxygen molecules with one or more UNPAIRED electrons in their outer orbit

• Normal oxygen molecule has 4 pairs of electrons but the body’s natural metabolic processes can rob the oxygen of an electron – it is now a free radical and tries to replace the lost electron by raiding other molecules

• They dash crazily about crashing into other particles and tissues trying to pair up with other oxygen molecules and become whole again

• On impact with various cells of the body they actually produce bursts of light

• They seek other molecules with which they can combine to gain stability

But free radical structure is only part of the story.


• If left unchecked by antioxidants, over time free radicals create cumulative damage – just like a roaring fire throwing sparks on a rug will, over time, destroy the rug - so we put a fire screen in front of the fire to protect the rug

• Their movement and appearance are volatile and unpredictable

• Stable oxygen molecules are essential to sustain life

• Some level of unstable oxygen molecules or free radicals is needed to control inflammation, kill bacteria and control tone of your “smooth” muscles which regulate internal organs and blood vessels

• The key is balance

• To maintain this balance the body, as a normal function, produces free radical scavengers (our internal fire screen)

• But as we produce an excess of free radical structure and not enough scavengers we are in trouble, and the cumulative damage begins

• Difficult to control production of free radicals due to increased air pollution, increased use of herbicides, pesticides and other food contaminants, Electro-magnetic radiation, cigarettes and other tobacco products, U-V light from the sun and the thinning ozone layer, stress, etceteras

• Problems with our diet and food supply,

Electro-magnetic radiation (opens new window), cigarettes and other tobacco products, U-V light from the sun and the thinning ozone layer, stress, etceteras

• Problems with our diet and food supply, see the page on Proper Food Safety (opens new window), decrease our body’s ability to produce free radical scavengers

• Fluid from an osteoporotic knee is full of free radicals; the level of free radicals in the body of someone in severe asthmatic attack is at a dramatically increased level

• WE NEED a complete cascade or symphony of antioxidants to scavenge free radicals, to prevent cell damage and thus forestall degenerative diseases - this symphony of antioxidants is our personal internal fire screen

• Single or even several antioxidants cannot fully neutralize free radicals

• For example; CoQ10 produces super anion free radicals which require Vitamin E to quench them – in doing this Vitamin E produces tocopheroxyl free radicals, which require Vitamin C to quench them … and so on, and so on

• People often ask me how I deal with this. To be certain that I get adequate amounts of antioxidants I follow the Healthy Eating Guidelines (in new window)and the related information on linked pages. And I use Very High Quality Nutritional Supplements (opens new window)

So that’s a good introduction to the harmful effects of free radicals, free radical structure and antioxidant free radicals. By now you know that the goal to totally eliminate free radicals is neither achievable nor even advisable since you do need a certain level of free radicals.

You also know a bit about controlling the level of free radicals in your body to keep them at a safe and beneficial level, and about free radical structure. More information can be found in Its About Health (opens new window). Feel free to continue surfing through these many pages of evidence-based information about health.

Continue to Antioxidant Facts

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