The more you read on health issues, the more complicated the terminology becomes. I am left wondering if health language is used just to keep the players and users in their own world and limit entry to their understanding. Then again, maybe I am too liberal and prone to conspiracy theories. To quote Robert Frost, "A liberal man is too broad-minded to take his own side in a quarrel." So let me let you in on a few of the secrets so that you don't need to be a walking medical dictionary but have the benefit of being an expert. It is often said, that you are only a night's reading away from being an expert. You might want to try the theory out after reading this article. Tell the next person all about it and watch their reaction! Free radicals are simply broken parts of molecules which run around the body looking for a mate but more of this later.
Phyto-chemistry is all about the Chemical composition of Plants. Phyto / chemicals simply means combining with other plant chemicals. All herbs for example are really Phytochemicals in that they are made up of a range of chemicals based on a plant. Vegetable, fruits and berries are Phytochemicals in other words plant-based chemicals. The real key lies in how valuable these plant based chemicals are in relation to the health of our animal friends and ourselves. Free Radicals are the way of making sense of this (key to understanding health, the Dr. You in all living things and diet). Of course antioxidants have a major role in all this but we need to understand what processing is taking place first so we can influence the outcome with adjustments in diet.
Now you don't need to be a physicist to appreciate that electrons are positive and negative – you just need to think of a battery! They are useless unless the positive and negative ends meet up to release the battery's energy. Well, Free Radicals are missing the necessary electron to make them effective. So they scurry round our body looking for the missing part and will latch onto any available opposite electron to make them complete.
The danger lies in them latching onto something which is not quite right. It could be DNA, enzymes or proteins. It doesn't matter to the Free Radical but it matters to the health of the pet or other living beings. If the Free radicals join up with the wrong cells then the energy that is released can result in all sorts of problems like cancer, degenerative disease and so on.
In short the energy released from this type of association is like touching the positive and negative sides of a car battery at the same time. The sparks fly! The only difference is that you may not notice the effect for a long time and fail to make the connection between the actual cancer, degenerative disease etc. and the sparks.
So where and how do the Free Radicals come about and how can we set about making sure that these little devils are not running about the body searching to satisfy their needs at the expense of our pets health? Free Radicals cannot be prevented; they are part of the body's process of living. The cause of them is unknown, pollution in the air, chemicals in our food, water and even stress, can set off a chain reaction which results in this activity.
We can set in place the means to properly deal with the Free Radicals and limit their ability to latch onto the wrong type of energy. This is where the Antioxidants come into their own. I am sure all of us have witnessed that when an apple is cut in half and left out within a short period of time the cut section starts to go brown in colour. This is called 'oxidisation' which simply means that it has started to go bad. We will come back to this later and give you an example of how you slow this process down with 'Phytochemicals' or plant chemicals. As I sure most of you know that "Anti" Oxidisation is the process which stops the cut apple going bad or turning brown.
In the body, Antioxidants are like a charity – they go around the body giving the Free Radicals the missing part they are scavenging for. They make them whole and prevent them from aligning themselves with the wrong kind. A bit like a parent watching over who their children associate with in order to prevent them being led astray. Once the Free Radicals have been matched up properly they are no longer a threat to the body.
Going back to the plant chemicals (Phytochemicals) why don't you try a small experiment to demonstrate the effectiveness of this process? Berries are excellent sources of plant chemicals which act as Antioxidants. Cut an apple in two and rub one of the cut halves of the apple with a strawberry. Then leave the two halves sitting for about an hour. You will notice that the untouched half will go brown much quicker that the half rubbed by the strawberry.
There are two very important aspects relating to Free Radicals and how we can best serve the interests of our pets. Firstly, there is the pets' primary defense system known as Phase 2 enzymes. These are naturally occurring but work best when they have a minimal amount of work to do. This is where everyday diet is very important. Provide the correct ingredients in the diet, in right proportions and the Phase 2 enzymes will work normally minimizing the potential for health problems often associated with ageing.
The second approach to dealing with free radicals is through supplementation of products to work in conjunction with the Phase 2 enzymes. It works a bit like having a fire burning and throwing some petrol/gas on it.
Now we can look at the value of plant based chemicals to act as antioxidants. As already stated berries are an excellent source of the appropriate antioxidants but need to be fed without processing although dried and frozen sources are alright: but if cooked they are useless. Vitamin C and E are also good sources of antioxidants but plant based ones have a major advantage over these. Vitamin C and E neutralise free radicals directly - usually one molecule of a direct antioxidant removes only one molecule of a free radical; in other words it zero's directly in on one radical, one time, to prevent it from causing cell (DNA, fat, protein) damage. They may only last for a few hours and the energy from them dries up quickly. Plant based chemicals, those containing a chemical called Sulforaphane Glucosinolate, stimulate the bodies natural antioxidant activity; this type of activity eliminates many types of free radicals, cycling over and over again, creating an "army" of antioxidants, ready to neutralize free radicals over a period of time. This process continues to be effective, even after it has left the body and may last for days.
One of the best plants that have been identified as an antioxidant for Free Radicals is young broccoli. Sprouted seeds contain an amazing amount of Sulforaphane Glucosinolate. And it is also important how these sprouts are grown. The concentrated energy can be matched by concentrated herbicides or pesticides so therefore the broccoli should be organic. The chemicals in the herbicides and pesticides will cause free radicals themselves defeating the purpose of using them.
(1) Broccoli sprouts: An exceptionally rich source of inducers of enzymes that protect against chemical carcinogens. (#)
Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, Vol. 94, pp. 10367-10372, September 16, 1997. Jed W. Fahey, Yuesheng Zhang, and Paul Talalay PubMed ID: 9294217
By George Burns BA
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Biography: Have been involved in holistic pet nutrition for over 12 years, attending may conferences and writing articles aimed at pet owners.
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