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.

Oxidative Injuries

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 [4]. 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 [5]. 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 [6]. 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 [7]
(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 [8]. The fact that
people tend to be more aware of health-related issues is also a result of the
aging of the population.

The Market

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 [9] (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

⇒Europe                     +79%

⇒Us                             +66%

⇒Japan                       +24%

⇒Australia                  +80%

Broad definition: +47% to USD 53.2bn

⇒Europe                     +71%

⇒Us                             +55%

⇒Japan                       +26%

⇒Australia                  +61%

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.

Consumer Expectations

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 [10].”

“What is the conclusion? By and large, according to consumers, when we
say that a product is natural, we mean that the product’s ingredients are
derived from a plant or the earth and are not man-made or produced in a
laboratory [10].” Moreover, “natural products are perceived as being less
harmful, gentler on the skin, 100% safe, and containing no toxic agents”.
According to Michael Harmswoth from ESPA (UK) [10], “the key to
benefiting from this demand lies in avoiding the pitfalls-this can be
achieved through transparent communication and by continuously improving
products and formulations as the development of natural ingredients
improves.” This applies to both oral and topical beauty products. However,
regardless of whether or not they are natural, modern functional foods and
cosmetics may represent a real alternative to minor dermatology for the
prevention and treatment of imperfections caused primarily by skin

Author : kaabinet



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