The Major Causes of Aging
To understand the causes of aging and other degenerative diseases, we should start our discussion with free radicals. What are free radicals? Before we answer this question let'sfirst talk about atoms and molecules.Atoms are the basic building blocks of any substance. When atoms combine, they formstable molecules, like oxygen in our atmosphere (two oxygen atoms combined as onemolecule) or water (two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom). When certain moleculescombine, they form long chain substances (or polymers) like proteins, fats andcarbohydrates--just to name a few.Atoms or molecules are bonded together by electrons. In organic compounds, the mostfrequent number of electrons shared between atoms is two. These bonds are not permanent. Depending on the presence of other forces (temperature, radiation andchemical agents), these bonds can break and separate from each other, leading to anuneven number of electrons in each molecule or atom. As shown in Figure A the samesituation can also result when a molecule is stripped off one of its outer electrons. Ineither case, the resulting molecule or atom, is referred to as a free radical. In the body,free radicals are generated during the normal course of metabolism, or they may beinduced by environmental factors, such as radiation and pollution.