Not that long ago, scientific studies focused on the benefits of anti-oxidants to slow the aging process. Anti-oxidants would bind with free radicals which were the culprits in our body’s degeneration. A few years later, however, studies began to show it was much more effective to convince the body to do the job itself—which, in fact, it already does naturally. When we’re young and healthy, our cells manage to keep the production of free radicals in balance so they don’t cause the damage they do usually later in life. As we age, however, the balance starts to shift and what we know as the aging process starts to occur.
Introducing the Dormant Protein
It turns out there is a protein in every cell known as Nrf2. This protein lies dormant until activated at which time it attaches to a strand of DNA in the nucleus of the cell known as A.R.E. which then creates enzymes that attach to the free radicals. The key to note is that this protein lies dormant and as we age, it is activated less often. Scientists are now studying how to stimulate the activation so that many degenerative diseases can be avoided and the aging process slowed.
It might help to understand what is happening in the cell to see how free radicals are formed and why that might be a problem. The cell takes in oxygen which it then processes as needed to fire the fuel our body needs to survive. This causes oxidants to form also known as R.O.S or reactive oxygen species. These are the natural output of the oxygenation process.
Free Radicals, a Form of R.O.S.
The free radicals, as they are otherwise known, contain one unpaired electron. Electrons want to be paired so the free radicals will search through the cell for other substances whose electrons they can grab. This can wreak havoc as these other substances search for electrons to pair with their newly unpaired electron.
A Return to the Beginning
When we are younger, Nrf2 is frequently activated to balance things out, bonding with A.R.E. which sends out the enzymes which engage the electrons of the free radicals. The process of how this activation happens is something the scientists are still studying.