Understanding Free Radicals
Free radicals are highly unstable chemicals that can attack and damage vital cell structures. In the body, stable chemical compounds typically have pairs of electrons. Sometimes, one electron from this pair gets stripped away, resulting in a compound known as a free radical.
Chemically, a free radical is now "free" to combine with another element in the body to create a new stable compound. You can think of this process like how our social systems work. Consider a family with a husband and wife who are together. Both are committed and "tied" to each other, not available for other partnerships. However, if they were to become "separated," you'd have two "free" individuals looking for new partners. This is how free radicals operate, disrupting the stability of compounds and forming a chain reaction.
Within the body, a free radical's mission is to find another compound from which it can steal an electron. This process breaks apart the existing "content" and results in the release of another free radical, leading to a cascade effect. While on this mission, free radicals, which are essentially oxidation products of the body, can inflict significant damage to the delicate machinery of your cells. One of the most well-studied free radical chain reactions in living organisms is lipid peroxidation, which refers to the formation of peroxide molecules containing an excess of oxygen atoms.