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Beating Free Radicals With Apples and Oranges

By: Corinna Underwood - Updated: 21 Jul 2010 | comments*Discuss
Apples Oranges Antioxidants Vitamins

Free radicals are single atoms or atom clusters with an odd (unpaired) number of electrons. This means they are volatile; their unpaired electron causes free radicals to collide with other molecules, hijacking them and snatching an electron. The victim's structure is now altered and it becomes the free radical. This can have a domino effect so vast that it can alter the structure of millions of molecules in a matter of nanoseconds. When free radicals steal electrons from such important components as DNA, protein molecules and enzymes, their proper functioning is affected. Free radical damage can lead to degenerative diseases such as heart disease and cancer. Many scientists also believe that they are also the basis of the aging process.

Can Free Radicals be Stopped?

But what causes free radicals and can they be stopped? Free radicals are normally present in your body in small numbers. To be fair to them, they do have beneficial uses like the promotion of beneficial oxidation that produces energy and the destruction of certain types of bacterial invaders. Free radicals are normally kept in check by the action of your body's naturally occurring free radical scavengers. These scavengers neutralize free radicals, rendering them harmless.

Problems arise when your body has an excessive number of stalking free radicals. Dangerous amounts can alter the way in which cells code genetic material. Changes in protein structure may occur and your body's immune system may see this altered protein as a foreign substance and destroy it. In addition, free radicals can also destroy cell membranes, upsetting your body fluid and also levels of calcium. Air pollution, overexposure to the sun's rays and cigarette smoking can all lead to an increase in free radicals. The good news is you can win the war on free radicals by recruiting a defence system of antioxidants.


Antioxidants consist of a group of vitamins, minerals and enzymes that capture free radicals and neutralize them by binding to their free electrons. Your body makes its own free radical busting enzymes. Two of the main ones are super-oxide-dismutase, (SOD) and catalase. These are generally dependent on the availability of trace minerals like selenium, zinc, copper and manganese. Your diet supplies the rest of the antioxidants you need.

Apples and Oranges

Apples contain naturally-occurring chemical compounds known as phytochemicals, polyphenols, or flavonoids, some of which have been proven to have antioxidant activity that inhibits, or scavenges, the activity of free radicals in the body. The major antioxidant components in apples are polyphenols contained mainly in the skin known as quercetin glycoside, phloretin glycoside, chlorogenic acid, and epicatechin. Quercetin has been reported to reduce carcinogenic activity, inhibit enzymatic activities associated with several types of tumour cells, enhance the antiproliferative activity of anticancer agents, and inhibit the growth of transformed tumorigenic cells.

Oranges contain an array of phytochemicals, which help fight age-related diseases. They are ranked number 1 among five popular fruits (apples, bananas, grapes and pears); oranges are among the healthiest items in the produce section that provide valuable health benefits. Oranges, as well as other fruits, contain a water-soluble fibre called pectin. Studies show that pectin helps reduce blood cholesterol levels. This may explain why individuals who eat several servings daily of fruits, such as oranges, and vegetables have a lower risk for heart disease.

Studies show that pectin suppresses hunger levels up to four hours after eating.

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