I’m sure you have come across the term antioxidant before, in fact it is used quite often these days especially in the context of anti-aging. I’ve recently looked a bit deeper into what this actually means and what these free radicals do to our bodies. There are many different theories about free radical damage, so let me try to explain it as quick and simple as possible.
What are Free Radicals?
Ok a little bit of chemistry lesson here 🙂 The human body is composed of many different types of cells. Cells are composed of many different types of molecules. Molecules consist of one or more atoms of one or more elements joined by chemical bonds. As you probably remember from your old high school days, atoms consist of a nucleus, neutrons, protons and electrons.
Free radicals are very unstable and react quickly with other compounds, trying to capture the needed electron to gain stability. Generally, free radicals attack the nearest stable molecule, “stealing” its electron. When the “attacked” molecule loses its electron, it becomes a free radical itself, beginning a chain reaction. Once this happens the problem is, free radicals often injure the cell, damaging the DNA, which creates the seed for disease.
Research suggests that free radical damage to cells leads to the pathological changes associated with aging. An increasing number of diseases or disorders, as well as aging process itself, demonstrate link either directly or indirectly to these reactive and potentially destructive molecules. The major mechanism of aging attributes to DNA or the accumulation of cellular and functional damage.
Normally, the body can handle free radicals, but if antioxidants are unavailable, or if the free-radical production becomes excessive, damage can occur. Of particular importance is that free radical damage accumulates with age.
Excessive production of free radicals can be caused by the following:
- Cigarette Smoke
- Excessive Alcohol Consumption
- Excessive exercise – such as those who only exercise excessively on weekends
With repeated free radical attacks that the body can’t stop, that damage can lead to a host of chronic diseases, including cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease.
What do Antioxidants do?
Antioxidants neutralize free radicals by donating one of their own electrons, ending the electron-“stealing” reaction. The antioxidant nutrients themselves don’t become free radicals by donating an electron because they are stable in either form. They act as scavengers, helping to prevent cell and tissue damage that could lead to cellular damage and disease.
The two most important antioxidants found in our food are Vitamin E and Vitamin C. It is not easy to get substantial amount from our daily food intake as most of us simply don’t eat enough servings of these vitamin rich fruits and vegetables. However artificial consumption of these two vitamins may lead to even more damage.
Lingzhi as Antioxidant
This is where regular usage of lingzhi comes in. Being a very powerful antioxidant, lingzhi can get rid of free radicals in the following way:
1. Increases antioxidant enzymes in our blood stream. When our body’s anti-oxidant ability is increased, it can eliminate the free radicals more effectively.
2. Increase the SOD enzyme in our brain. Our brain suffers the most from the free radical damage, hence the memory loss in elderly people. With use of lingzhi this oxidation is slowed down and the damage of brain cells is reduced.
3. Protects Macrophage. Macrophage is a component of our blood that eats up cancer cells thus reducing our chance of contracting cancer. However, macrophage is easily oxidized. Lingzhi has the ability to protect our macrophage from being oxidised, and therefore strengthening our immune system.
Due to this antioxidant effect lingzhi is great for slowing down the aging process as well as greatly reducing the risk of serious illnesses . There is also one theory how excessive free radicals are directly related to production of wrinkles. This might explain why those who consume lingzhi for longer periods have much less wrinkles then those who don’t.
If you are not able to consume lingzhi as the antioxidant, do make sure you consume high quantity of vegetables and fruits on a daily basis to maximize the antioxidant effect.