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1 March 2011
Danger of free radicals overestimated

Our fear of free radicals may be exaggerated, say European scientists at the Karolinska Institutet who have found that these molecules control important bodily signals. Their report, in The Journal of Physiology, shows that free radicals cause the heart to beat with the correct force.

Free radicals react readily with other substances in the body, and this can have negative effects on our health in certain circumstances. Free radicals can be counteracted by antioxidants, which are common ingredients in many dietary supplements. The idea that free radicals are generally dangerous and must be counteracted is, however, a myth, according to scientists who have conducted a new study of the role that free radicals play in heart physiology.

"As usual, it's a case of everything in moderation. In normal conditions, free radicals act as important signal substances, but very high levels or long-lasting increases can lead to disease", says study leader Håkan Westerblad.

Westerblad's findings reveal a previously unknown regulatory mechanism in the heart, and may lead to a better understanding of various types of heart deficiency. "Free radicals play an important role, since they contribute to the heart being able to pump more blood in stress-filled situations", he notes. "On the other hand, persistent stress can lead to heart failure, and chronically increased levels of free radicals may be part of the problem here."

Related:
Antioxidants: When Too Much Of A Good Thing Can Kill You
Study Slams Vitamin Popping
Antioxidants Key To Beating Vision Loss

Source: The Journal of Physiology


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