Free radicals are a major cause of arterial injury. These molecules can damage cells and tissue whenever they are allowed to roam. A number of substances in our foods and environment can cause the formation of free radicals.
The most dangerous dietary substances to the heart and arteries are oxidised fats. When fats go rancid they oxidise and during this process free radicals are formed. Only oxidised fats and cholesterol are found in arterial plaque.
Oxidised fats are abundant in our modern diet. Processed vegetable oils are particularly bad. These oils have been stripped of the natural antioxidants that protect them from oxidisation and free radical generation. As a result these oils can begin to oxidise and form free radicals whilst they are being processed and bottled. This means that when you buy them in the store they already contain harmful amounts of free radicals.
When you cook with them it accelerates the formation of free radicals. When these oils are consumed they release a large amount of free radicals into your bloodstream and these attack the linings of arteries leading to inflammation and injury.
Another major source of free radicals is tobacco smoke and polluted air. When smoke is inhaled free radicals enter the lungs and are then absorbed into the bloodstream where they cause injury. This is why smoking is such a strong factor for heart disease.
The only way to stop free radicals is to consume antioxidants. Antioxidants are molecules that neutralise free radicals and therefore render them harmless. Diets that are high in fruit and vegetables rich in antioxidants (vitamins A,C, E and beta-carotene) reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. If antioxidants are available in the bloodstream the risk of free radical injury in the arteries is reduced.
Most people do not eat enough fruit and vegetables to provide significant protection from free radicals. A great way to increase antioxidants is to use coconut oil. Unlike other vegetable oils, coconut oil is chemically very stable and is not oxidised very easily. In fact it is so resistant to free radical attack that it acts as an antioxidant. In other words the use of coconut oil can help prevent injury to arteries and reduce heart disease.