There is a lot of buzz in the news about free radicals and antioxidants. It is clear they are important players in our health and the health of our pets. It is important to understand what they are and how they impact physical condition.
A free radical is an atom or molecule with an unpaired or odd electron in its outer shell. This is a very unstable state. The free radical is like a renegade that reacts quickly with other compounds trying to steal an electron so it can become stable. When a free radical attacks a stable molecule to capture an electron, it turns the attacked molecule into a free radical. This starts a chain reaction or domino effect that produces more and more free radicals.
There are many types of free radicals. Oxygen is especially susceptible to radical formation and oxygen free radicals are the ones that can be most detrimental to health. Some free radicals are produced during cellular metabolism or chemical reactions necessary for normal body functions. Others are a result of outside sources like tobacco smoke, toxins, and pollutants.
Each cell in the body gets hit by free radicals 10,000 times every day. The renegade free radicals damage molecules in cell membranes or attack DNA and weaken the cell. Weakened cells eventually mutate or die. Free radical damage is associated with more than 50 health problems including heart disease, arthritis, cataracts, premature aging, and many forms of cancer.
Antioxidants come to the rescue since they can safely react with free radicals turning them into stable molecules. This stops the domino effect. There are some enzyme systems within the body that scavenge free radicals and neutralize them. Noted authorities including the National Institutes of Health note that vitamin E, selenium, beta-carotene, and vitamin C are the primary antioxidants. They do most of the work but must be supplied in the diet since the body cannot manufacture them.
Vitamin E may be best known as one of the most efficient chain-breaking antioxidants that protects critical cellular structures against damage from oxygen free radicals. It has many other important jobs in the body. Deficiencies in Vitamin E may lead to reproductive failure, nutritional “muscular dystrophy,” hemolytic anemia, and neurological and immunological abnormalities.
Selenium is an essential trace mineral found in small amounts in the body. It is a vital antioxidant that inhibits the oxidation of lipids (fats). It works synergistically with Vitamin E to form a powerful team that aids in the production of antibodies and helps maintain a healthy heart and liver. It has also been found to function as a preventative against the formation of certain types of tumors.
Beta-carotene is another powerful antioxidant that scavenges free radicals and limits damage to cell membranes, DNA, and protein structures in tissues. It is also the precursor to Vitamin A which is essential in skeletal growth, testicular and ovarian function, proper eye function, embryonic development, and differentiation of tissues. Beta-Carotene and Vitamin A destroy carcinogens (cancer-causing agents), guard against heart disease and stroke, and lower cholesterol. Vitamin A is necessary for healthy skin and mucous membranes.
Vitamin C serves as an antioxidant and protects other antioxidants like Vitamin E. Vitamin C is great at combating free-radical formation caused by pollution and cigarette smoke. Significant amounts of Vitamin C are key in protecting cells in the brain and spinal cord against free radical damage. In addition to its role as an antioxidant, Vitamin C also stimulates the activity of certain key immune cells and increases the synthesis of interferon, a natural anti-viral substance produced by the body.
NuVet Plus® ingredients include Vitamin E, selenium, beta-carotene, and Vitamin C which are essential to the war against free radicals that attack and damage cells. NuVet Plus® wafers also include a number of additional ingredients that benefit your dog’s health in many other ways.
Make certain your pet gets the needed antioxidants to help his body minimize free radical damage. It is as simple as giving him NuVet Plus® as part of his daily routine. Your pet will gobble them as treats.
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With a Ph.D. in Biological sciences from the University of Texas in Austin and a masters in Zoology from Southern Illinois University, Dr. Sue is devoted to the care and massaging of pets. Read her articles here.