The antioxidant approach to anti-aging.
When Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said "the Fountain of Youth is within us," he was closer to the truth about youth than he ever could have known. In modern times, many seek the Fountain of Youth “elsewhere,” in the form of botox injections, microdermabrasions and facelifts. While these procedures may create a superficially youthful appearance, the sands of time still run just as quickly inside the body. The present-day Ponce de Leons are not the doctors who perform nose jobs and liposuction; they are the scientists and researchers who have found clues that indicate the Fountain of Youth may lie deep within us, in our very cells. By examining and understanding the aging process, we can address the causes of aging before treating the symptoms—and develop anti-aging strategies that slow down time both inside and out.
To understand anti-aging, we first must ask, “What is aging?” In simple terms, aging is characterized by the gradual breakdown and death of cells. The most widely accepted explanation for this cellular breakdown is the free radical theory, which was developed by pioneering aging researcher Dr. Denham Harman in 1954. Harman’s theory is that free radicals—charged molecules produced naturally as the body uses oxygen—accelerate aging by aggressively attacking and damaging our cells.
But why are these free radicals so angry at the world? Because they are one electron short of stability and will do anything to get that electron—even steal it by bouncing off neighboring molecules. This process, also known as oxidation, brings stability to the free radical, but turns the “victim” molecule into a new free radical. This chain reaction runs rampant, as marauding free radicals wildly smash against nearby cells in a perpetual cycle of electron looting. It is thought that over time, this smashing action damages cells, tissues and even DNA, ultimately contributing to aging.
Stress Inside and Out
We can almost forgive internally produced free radicals for their wild electron-robbing sprees. After all, free radicals are a byproduct of the oxygen “burning” process that gives us the energy to live. In addition, our bodies do have some natural defenses that help to keep such damage in check.
But free-radical levels within the body skyrocket when you add the burden that comes from external sources, leading to a state known as oxidative stress. Poor diet, depression, inadequate exercise, smoking, UV rays, toxins and pollution—the ubiquitous elements of modern life—can increase the ranks of free radicals so they overwhelm our natural defenses, igniting a devastating chain reaction of cellular destruction.
One can observe the free radical theory of aging at work all around us: Heavy smokers, substance abusers and sun worshipers simply seem to age more quickly, acquiring wrinkles and showing skin that has lost its supple, youthful elasticity at a ...