Researchers found that free radicals can actually make our cells live longer - read here:
... When free radicals interact with the cells, proteins and DNA in the body, they can cause damage by interfering with their chemical structure. Until now, it has been believed that, as a result, we inevitably suffer the ravages of ageing, from normal physical ageing to diseases such as cancer.
But the Canadian study, published in the respected journal Cell, says the opposite. Researchers found that free radicals can make our cells live longer.
This happens by altering a mechanism called apoptosis. This is a process by which damaged cells are instructed to commit suicide in a variety of situations, such as to avoid becoming cancerous when their DNA has mutated dangerously, or to kill off viruses that have invaded the cell.
The scientists have found that free radicals can stimulate this 'suicide mechanism' to do something completely different in healthy cells - bolstering their defences and increasing their lifespan.
Siegfried Hekimi, professor of biology at McGill University, who led the study, says: 'The so-called free-radical theory of ageing is incorrect. We have turned this theory on its head.'
Professor Hekimi says that when he raised levels of free radicals in nematode worms (these simple roundworms are used because their nervous system performs many of the same functions as higher organisms), he got the creatures to live 'a substantially longer life'.
His study reinforces suspicions raised by other scientists. Last year, for example, researchers at the Multimedica Cardiovascular Research Institute in Italy warned that our bodies need the stress caused by free radicals to stimulate them to fight infectious disease and to properly regulate vital bodily functions such as our cardiovascular system.
The Milan-based researchers had surveyed all previous research evidence and concluded in The International Journal of Biochemistry and Cell Biology: 'Increasing the levels of antioxidants in our bodies may harm our health. Balanced levels of antioxidants are important for our cardiovascular system and for healthy ageing.'
The theory behind this idea is called hormesis - which may be more described as 'what doesn't kill you, makes you stronger'.
Scientists believe our bodies have evolved an array of defence mechanisms for surviving tough environments, but that these systems are not switched on unless we are challenged. And that is where free radicals come in.
The problem with antioxidants is that they may neutralise this 'protective' effect. It may also help explain why antioxidant pills have been found to produce some unexpectedly harmful results.
For instance, laboratory studies have shown how high doses of antioxidants such as N-acetyl cysteine - a popular antioxidant supplement - may promote the spread of breast cancer cells.
Meanwhile, the antioxidants beta carotene and vitamin A have been linked to an increased risk of death from lung cancer and lung disease. ...
If supplements make us age faster, then perhaps excessive consumption of vegetables and fruit would make people age faster as well?