In order to understand what a free radical is, we need to review some simple chemistry.

Don’t worry. I’ll make it easy to understand.
Molecules are composed of atoms. There are different types of molecules, such as water or wood.

Atoms are composed of negative electrons which spin around the positive nucleus in the center of the atom.

Oxidation is the process of combining oxygen with other molecules, for instance when leaves are burned.
Oxidation is good and bad. You require oxygen to live because inside your body, it creates the heat and energy of life, but it also creates free radicals, which damage the cells. This is why you feel pain after exercise. Free radicals are molecules or atoms with unpaired electrons.
Electrons, like people, “want” to be paired.

When free radicals (usually oxygen), whose electrons really want to be paired, contact other atoms whose electron pairs are not strongly attracted to each other, the free radical “steals” one of the electrons. This is oxidation.
When your cell walls or the tiny organs inside your cell are oxidized, they are damaged and destroyed. This is why you feel pain after exercise.1

Even worse, the molecules that lost the electrons now become free radicals themselves and the number of free radicals increases more and more.

Free radicals are an important cause of aging and disease, particularly the diseases of old age, such as diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, cancer, Alzheimer’s and stroke.2 So oxidation is good when it provides energy, but it also causes damage to your cells.
We can measure the damage to your cells caused by oxidative stress (oxidation) because the damage creates a chemical (TBARS3) in your body. Normally, this damage increases with age.

Your cells protect themselves from free radicals with antioxidants. Antioxidants carry extra electrons they can “donate” to free radicals without becoming a free radical themselves.
Your cells’ produce three super-antioxidants (SOD4, Glutathione and Catalase) each of which deactivates millions of times more free radicals per second than dietary antioxidants you may already be taking, such as vitamin C and E, which can only scavenge free radicals on a one-to-one basis.
Unfortunately, your body produces less and less of these super-antioxidants as you age.
SOD is one of the most powerful natural antioxidants made in your cells. It was discovered by Joe McCord, PhD, in 1969. He dedicated the next 44 years of research to finding ways to increase SOD in cells.
His research led to Protandim, a unique patented combination of 5 herbs that increased SOD substantially. This is the reason that after 30 days of Protandim the usual increased cell damage (TBARS) found in older people is eliminated and people in their 70s have the same low degree of damage as 20 year olds!5
In his later research, he found that these herbs stimulate production of a protein called Nrf26. Nrf2 stimulates the cell to produce powerful antioxidants, inhibit inflammation, protect against heavy metal toxins and repair or remove damaged parts of the cell.7

In addition to SOD, Nrf2 increases Glutathione. It is considered the “master antioxidant.” It not only acts as a powerful antioxidant itself, but it can also regenerate other antioxidants, such as vitamins C and E, improve immune response, help in DNA repair and detoxify drugs, chemicals, radiation, and other toxins.8
To summarize:

  • Oxidation is necessary to create heat and energy in your body.
  • But it also causes free radicals.
  • Vigorous exercise also creates free radicals.
  • Free radicals, also known as oxidative stress, play an important role in aging and degenerative diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, cancer, Alzheimer’s and stroke.
  • Your cells naturally produce super-antioxidants that handle free radicals.
  • As you age, your cells produce less and less of these super-antioxidants.
  • This leads to more and more cellular damage as you age.
  • Protandim can reduce the amount of ongoing cellular damage to that of a youngster.

1 Bryer SC, Goldfarb AH., “Effect of high dose vitamin C supplementation on muscle soreness, damage, function, and oxidative stress to eccentric exercise,” Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2006 Jun;16(3):270-80.
2 Khalid Rahman, “Studies on free radicals, antioxidants, and co-factors,” Clin Interv Aging. 2007 Jun; 2(2): 219–236./ Epub 2007 Jun.
3 Thiobarbituric acid reactive substances
4 Superoxide Dismutase
5 Nelson SK, Bose SK, Grunwald GK, Myhill P, McCord J, “The induction of human superoxide dismutase and catalase in vivo: a fundamentally new approach to antioxidant therapy,”, Free Radic Biol Med. 2006 Jan 15;40(2):341-7,
6 Nuclear factor erythroid 2 [NF-E2]-related factor 2
7 Olivia L. May, Ph.D.,” Nrf2 Antioxidant Stress Response: Managing its ‘Dark Side’” Cayman Chemical website / Epub
8 Whitaker, Julian MD, “Reap the Benefits of Glutathione,”