What Are Free Radicals?
Free radicals are species capable of independent existence that contain one
or more unpaired electrons, that is, electrons that are alone in their orbit.
Free radicals and reactive oxygen and nitrogen species are either synthesized
endogenously, for example, in energy metabolism and by the antimicrobial
defense system of the body, or produced as reactions to exogenous
exposure such as cigarette smoke, an imbalanced diet, exhaustive exercise,
environmental pollutants, ultraviolet and blue light, and food contaminants
(Fig. 5.1). They usually have a transitory existence, as a result of which
their steady state concentration in the biological system is very low.
Oxidative and other chemical stresses may modify not only polyunsatured
lipids, but also carbohydrates, proteins, and complex macromolecules,
forming atherogenic, carcinogenic, diabetogenic, and brain degenerating
substances, depending on the target organ. Modified biomolecules also
interfere with gene expression, causing metabolic disturbances and skin
Schematic representation of free radicals and cell damage.
To counteract oxidative injury of structural lipids, carbohydrates, and proteins,
human skin is equipped with a network of enzymatic and nonenzymatic
antioxidant systems that are responsible for maintaining an equilibrium
between pro- and antioxidant compounds . Therefore, the use of natural
antioxidants as topical and/or systemic agents, which reduce the onset of
oxidative stress, may help to protect and increase the efficacy of the skin’s
biological system . Usually, the use of cosmetics (beauty from the outside)
associated with diet supplements (beauty from the inside) has a synergistic
activity aimed to maintain the cells’ antioxidant power . The
current tendency to apply and to ingest various kinds of vitamins and antioxidant
compounds is notably on the rise.
However, major information is lacking on the mechanisms by which these
compounds exert their antioxidative activity.
Beauty from the Inside
The concept of health and wellness is broad and segmented, offering a
composite of several smaller specialty categories generally characterized
by an emphasis on prevention and maintenance rather than on therapy 
(Fig. 5.2). Perhaps this is due to an increased awareness of what appear to
be the most frequently discussed diseases (i.e., heart disease, cancer, osteoporosis,
arthritis, etc.) coupled with better information provided by the
media. Every year more and more newspaper and magazine articles
are dedicated to the relationship between diet, health, and beauty, and more
specifically to nutraceutical and cosmeceutical concepts . The fact that
people tend to be more aware of health-related issues is also a result of the
aging of the population.
The functional food market has risen from US $8.9 billion in 1996 up to
US $16.1 billion in 2006. It is interesting to note that this market has grown
at a steady rate of 10% a year and is expected to register a +56% increase
worldwide by 2010  (Fig. 5.3).
Interest in the role diet plays in optimizing personal health and well-being is
stimulated by substantial work that is being carried out, and will continue
to be carried out in the future, in six areas: (a) risk reducers, (b) life stage
Categories with the health and wellness market. Source:
David Thibodeau, Managing Director, Canaccord Adams, Vancouver,
British Columbia, Canada, 2007.
Functional Foods Market
Strict definition: +56% to USD 25.1bn
Broad definition: +47% to USD 53.2bn
Future prospects (strong growth to 2010) of the functional
foods market. Source: Fiona Angus, Leatherhead Food International,
and gender nutrition, (c) getting through the day, (d) slimming solutions,
(e) age of antioxidants, and (f) beauty from the inside. To achieve these
objectives consumers are willing to pay a premium, purchasing so-called
anti-aging nutraceutical and cosmeceutical products.
Thus, the growing linkbetween diet and beautylhealth, makes the consumer
more open to the concept of beauty from within.
One must also consider consumer expectations in terms of what is natural.
Indeed, according to consumers, a natural product is:
“a product containing ingredients that come from the earth
rather than from a laboratory;
“a product containing no man-made ingredients;
“a product without added chemicals;
“a product that is more expensive because chemical ingredients
are cheaper than natural ones on account of the fact that
they are mass produced .”