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Every cell has chemical reactions involving the oxidation and reduction of molecules. These reactions or redox pathways can lead to the production of free radicals. A free radical is any chemical species capable of independent existence possessing one or more unpaired electrons. Biological free radicals are thus highly unstable molecules that have electrons available to react with various organic substrates.

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Situations in which the body’s antioxidant and other defensive abilities to combat free radicals is called oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is caused by an imbalance between the production of reactive oxygen species and a biological system’s ability to readily detoxify the reactive intermediates or easily repair the resulting damage. In humans, oxidative stress is involved in many diseases, such as atherosclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, heart failure, etc.

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