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Last updated
February 25, 2001
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The Free Radical Theory of Aging


Aging is the progressive accumulation of changes over time that increases the probability of disease and death. There are two main kinds of aging theories. Programmed theories hold that aging follows a genetic timetable, whereas damage theories emphasize injuries that build up over time, and cause things to go wrong..

The principal damage theory, the free radical theory of aging, holds that the aging may be due to the cumulative consequences of free radical reactions.

This theory is supported by:

1) The results of the limited number of long term intervention studies which have been reported.

2) Studies on the origin and evolution of life and interspecies comparisons of metabolic rates and life span.

3) Life span experiments in other species in which the diet and antioxidant gene expression is modified so as to alter endogenous free radical reaction levels.

4) The emerging understanding of the relationship between antioxidants, redox-sensitive transcription factors and gene expression.

5) The age-related decline in activation thresholds of key transcription factors and its normalization by antioxidants.

6) The growing number of studies which implicate free radical reactions in the pathogenesis of specific diseases.

Multiple mechanisms of aging operate in parallel. Defective mitochondria and membranes, genetic factors, glycation and free radicals may all contribute to the aging process. Nevertheless, we are now finding that redox-modulated processes are central to most of the models of aging. The discovery of the antioxidant network and its capacity to modulate gene expression has linked genetic aging theories to free radicals, and offers a powerful explanation of our vulnerability to chronic disease in later life.

Even though the 'free radical' diseases include the two major causes of premature death - cancer and atherosclerosis, which leads to cardiovascular disease - as yet, there is no evidence that the maximum human life span of 110 -120 years will be increased by antioxidant intervention.

The important thing is that most of us now live forty years less than the maximum human life span, and often our later years are blighted by degenerative disease.

There is now compelling evidence that a considerable part of the deterioration in health we experience in the second half of life may not originate in inevitable, irreversible, gene mutations or failures, but rather involve cumulative free radical damage and shifts in the activation thresholds of genes, potentially preventable and reversible by good diet and antioxidant supplementation.

For the first time in evolution, humans stand at the threshold of understanding how we may overcome the limitations of the genes we have inherited. That the means may not involve the exotic technology of genetic engineering and gene splicing but common natural nutrients our grandparents knew of is truly humbling.


Information and statements regarding dietary supplements herein has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Nor is it meant to substitute for the advice provided by your health care provider. The efficacy of antioxidant supplementation for children and during pregnancy is not established . If you have or suspect that you have a medical problem, please contact your physician.

Network AntioxidantsTM and The First Defense Against AgingTM are trademarks of Cyberpac, Inc. Lester Packer, 1999. All Rights Reserved.

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