In recent decades, free
radicals, highly reactive and thereby destructive molecules,
have come to be understood increasingly for their importance in
causing disease, including cancer, and aging.
Molecules are made up of atomic nuclei
surrounded by orbiting electrons, paired with another electron
spinning in the opposite direction. The paired electrons keep
the molecule relatively stable (at a lower energy state) and hence
less reactive. When one or more electrons is/are unpaired, the
molecule becomes relatively unstable (at a higher energy state)
and consequently more reactive with other molecules.
A free radical is a molecule with one
or more unpaired electrons in its outer orbital. Many of these
molecular species are oxygen centred. These highly unstable molecules
tend to react rapidly with adjacent molecules, often generating
additional free radicals or other reactive oxygen species (ROS),
which can perpetuate destructive molecular chain reactions.
Because many of the components of the
living cell are particularly susceptible to free radical injury,
these molecular chain reactions can have substantial effects on
the structure and function of living tissue. Several intracellular
free radical scavenging defence mechanisms have evolved in living
things to control the potentially destructive reactivity of ROS,
including anti-oxidative enzymes and vitamins.
Free radicals are created in the body
from a number of causes, especially radiation (including sunlight)
and the uncontrolled oxidation of lipids. These radicals readily
attach themselves to other molecules of the body—to the
long, fibrous structures of protein, to cell membranes and organelles,
and to the DNA and RNA within the cells. Whatever free radicals
link with, they alter, both structurally and functionally.
One of the most important aspects of disease
in general and aging in particular is the accumulation of molecular
injuries that are mediated by free radicals and other ROS. Specifically,
structural lipids (fats) are the primary component of our cell
membranes and since the integrity of these lipids defines cell
viability, aging is partially a matter of our cells becoming rancid
as our lipids are progressively oxidised.
Gaia’s optimal anti-aging strategy
is to encourage the regular use of its ultra-high antioxidant
green tea along with a fruit-rich diet and the avoidance of topical
substances susceptible to oxidation, in particular, skin and mucous
membrane (oral) personal care products. It is a disturbing fact
that most personal care body products, both completely natural
as well as synthetic chemical, are potent sources of free radicals.
Gaia Research’s scientific approach
to the problem of topically generated free radicals and other
reactive oxygen species is to minimise sources thereof in its
personal care products. It may come as a surprise, even to manufacturers
of so-called “natural products” to learn that these
are likely to be far more hazardous than synthetic chemical products.
Fortunately there is the safer alternative (Gaia) middle way.
Essentially, lipids and other natural
substances that are removed from their stable intact environment
in nature, become highly to susceptible to oxidation on exposure
to the 21% of oxygen in the air around us, especially if also
exposed to the sunlight around us, as well as environmental pollution
and the warmth of our bodies. Vulnerable substances not quickly
(15 minutes) assimilated into our skin, fall prey to ROS.
Not only do most natural substances
quickly decompose on the skin, some, in particular plant oils
and vitamin antioxidants, progressively exhibit reverse functions,
within as little as 15-20 minutes, as active oxidation donors
and pro-oxidants. More anti-oxidants is therefore not necessarily
the ideal response to oxidation, since clearly avoidance of the
unnecessary oxidising substrate is far more intelligent means
of avoiding oxygen radical damage to the underlying strata. It
is for this reason that Gaia Research formulates only carefully
established maximum assimilable quantities of such substances,
including most plant oils, vitamins and other cellularly valuable
substances as can be safely utilised by the skin within this short
window period. Please see our report “Mineral vs Plant Oils”
for a more critical information.