Free Radicals

by Michael Janson, M.D.

In the normal course of metabolism, your body produces small high-energy particles which are known as free radicals. These are unstable molecules with free electrons that can be used for energy production and numerous other physiological functions. In some cells they may be used as the weapons to kill viruses and bacteria. Unfortunately, because of their extremely high energy, they can also be damaging to normal tissues if too many of them are produced. Free radicals disrupt the normal production of DNA, the genetic material, and alter the lipids (fats) in cell membranes. They also affect the blood vessels and the production of prostaglandins. Prostaglandins regulate many physiological functions.

Free radicals are also found in the environment. There are many sources of excess free radicals, including certain metals (such as excess iron), cigarette smoke, air pollution, drugs, poisons, highly processed foods and food additives, ultraviolet sunlight and radiation.

By careful lifestyle choices you can avoid some of these free radical sources, and others can be counteracted. By making these choices for yourself you can slow down the aging process, decrease the risk of cancer and heart disease and promote high energy and a vital, healthy feeling of well-being.

At the Center for Preventive Medicine, our goal is to educate people about healthier lifestyle choices, and help them make the transition to better health habits. This can result in the prevention and treatment of chronic degenerative diseases. The following lists are things to avoid and things to include in your diet and lifestyle in order to lessen the damaging effects of excessive free radicals.


Cigarette smoke; processed oils such as commercial vegetable oils, margarines and shortenings; charcoal broiled foods and any charred or burned foods; excessive iron; air pollution; pesticides; cigarette smoke and volatile fumes; excessive sun exposure; unnecessary x-rays or radiation (there is an increased risk of cancer and other health problems within a 30 mile radius of nuclear power plants); polluted air; and unnecessary drugs, including prescriptions.

Recently, it has been confirmed that excessive accumulation of iron, common in meat eating populations, may be the most significant risk factor in the development of heart disease, except for smoking. This is probably due to this “transition metal” being a generator of free radicals. Therefore, it is also a probable risk factor for cancer. Unless you have a demonstrated need for iron, avoid supplements that contain it.

Many of the chemicals that generate free radicals are found in municipal water supplies. It is good to drink a lot of water, but to avoid tap water as much as possible. I recommend that you use a solid-carbon-block filtering device for drinking water, or to drink spring water.


Eat a healthy high-fiber, low-fat diet with lots of freshly prepared yellow and green vegetables, fresh fruits, grains and beans. Take vitamin supplements, including generous amounts of vitamin C, carotenes, vitamin E and bioflavonoids. Take mineral supplements including small amounts of selenium, zinc and manganese, but not iron, unless you need it.

Aerobic exercise increases the body’s production of SOD, one of the cellular enzymes that fight free radicals. Stress reduction or relaxation has been shown to decrease the body’s production of free radicals. An integrated approach to lifestyle modification is the most effective way for you to lower your risk of degenerative disease.


This is a treatment as well as preventive medicine for free-radical-associated diseases. It is an intravenous therapy with a synthetic amino acid that removes heavy metals and transition metals, such as excessive iron, from the body. Free radical damage is one of the most likely causes of accelerated aging. It is also very likely that free radicals increase the risk of cancer and heart disease. Many physicians use chelation therapy as a treatment for hardening of the arteries, including heart disease, leg artery disease and stroke. You can locate a doctor who does chelation therapy by contacting the American College for Advancement in Medicine at 800-532-3688.

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From September to June, I see patients in New Smyrna Beach, Florida. Call 386-409-7747, or send an email to [email protected] to make arrangements.

In summer, I have a variable schedule, and I see patients in offices at the Rothfeld Center for Integrative Medicine in Waltham, Massachusetts. For appointments, send an email to [email protected] make arrangements, or call: 386-409-7747.

I primarily do phone consultations, as well as email and instant messaging consults.

Information herein is not medical advice or direction. All material in this newsletter is provided for information only. Its contents should not be used to provide medical advice on individual problems. Consult a health care professional for medical or health advice.