Oxidative Stress / Free Radicals and their related diseases ?

Oxidative Stress/Free Radicals

Even though oxygen is necessary for life itself, it is inherently dangerous for our existence.  In the process of utilizing oxygen within your cells to create energy, you also create a by-product referred to as free radicals. Like an apple turns brown when exposed to air, our cells can “rust” when we breathe due to oxidative stress, a process caused by free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules that damage or “oxidize” cells throughout the body in a process called oxidative stress.Free radicals are charged oxygen molecules that are missing at least one electron and desire to get an electron from the surrounding area.  If it is not readily neutralized by an antioxidant, which has the ability to give this free radical the electron it desires, it can go on to create more volatile free radicals, damage the cell wall, vessel wall, proteins, fats, and even the DNA nucleus of the cell. Oxidative damage accumulates during the life cycle, and it plays a key role in the development of age-dependent diseases such as cancer, arthritis, brain disorders and other conditions (R).

What Is Oxidative Stress?

  • Reactive oxygen species (ROS) are produced by all vascular cell types, including endothelial, smooth muscle, and connective tissue cells, and can be formed by numerous enzymes (R).
  • Oxidants are also generated by different types of radiation, with X-irradiation generating the hydroxyl radical (R, R2).
  • Irradiation with ultraviolet light generates electronically excited states with the subsequent radical formation (R,R2).
  • Ultrasound and microwave radiation can also generate reactive oxygen species (R).
  • Metal-catalyzed reactions produce reactive oxidant species(R).
  • They are present as pollutants in the atmosphere (R).
  • ROS are produced by neutrophils and macrophages during inflammation (R).
  • They are also by-products of mitochondria-catalyzed electron transport reactions and other mechanisms (R).
Oxidative stress occurs when the production of reactive oxygen is greater than the body’s ability to detoxify the reactive intermediates. This imbalance leads to oxidative damage to proteins, molecules, and genes within the body. Since the body is incapable of keeping up with the detoxification of the free radicals, the damage continues to spread.

External Factors of Oxidative Stress

Free radicals occur naturally within the body, and for the most part, the body’s natural antioxidants can manage their detoxification. But, there are certain external factors that can trigger the production of these damaging free radicals. These factors include:
• Excessive exposure to UV rays
• Pollution
• Smoking
• Eating an unhealthy diet
• Excessive exercise
• Certain medications and/or treatments

What diseases are associated with oxidative stress?

Overproduction of free radicals can cause oxidative damage to biomolecules, (lipids, proteins, DNA), eventually leading to many chronic diseases such as atherosclerosis,cancer, diabetics, rheumatoid arthritis, postischemic perfusion injury, myocardial infarction, cardiovascular diseases, chronic inflammation, stroke

As many as 200 human diseases have been associated with increased levels of oxidative stress (R).

Reactive oxygen species (ROS) influence many physiological processes including host defense and cellular signaling and their increased production through oxidative stress plays a role in many diseases (R).
These diseases include:
  • Cancer (R).
  • Vascular diseases (R).
  • High cholesterol (R, R2).
  • Hypertension (R, R2).
  • Parkinson’s disease (R).
  • Alzheimer’s disease (R).
  • Diabetes (R).
  • Kidney disease (R).
  • Cardiac hypertrophy (R).
  • Heart failure (R).
  • Stroke (R).


Oxidative Damage Helps Cause Diabetes

Both types of diabetics display increased levels of reactive oxygen species such as free radicals; for this reason, the onset of diabetes is closely associated with oxidative stress (R).
Damaged protein is a contributing factor to the mechanism by which oxidative stress accelerates diabetes complications (R).
Additionally, it appears that oxidative stress byproducts contribute to insulin resistance, the basis of diabetes (R).
Oxidative stress causes an excessive formation of free radicals which weaken defense mechanisms against further oxidation and that increases the likelihood of more cell damage, insulin resistance, and further complications of diabetes (R).
Also, recent research has demonstrated a direct link between the imbalance of oxidative stress and antioxidants leading to impaired glucose uptake (R).

 Oxidative Damage Causes COPD

Oxidative stress damages and impairs the functioning of several kinds of proteins, harming lung physiology in ways that can induce COPD, a chronic lung disease (R).
The harmful effects include oxidative inactivation of cells, excessive secretion of mucus, membrane lipid peroxidation, remodeling of the extracellular matrix, and cell death (R).
Additional oxidative stress occurs in COPD patients, because oxidative stress causes inflammation, and inflammation, in turn, causes more oxidative stress (R).
This cycle occurs because oxidation causes various protein dysfunctions, and that hinders the operation of functions that restore a healthy oxidant/antioxidant balance (R).

Oxidative Stress Contributes to Cancer

While a high level of oxidative stress is cytotoxic to the cell and halts proliferation by inducing apoptosis or even necrosis, a low level of oxidative stress can in fact stimulate the cell division in the promotion stage and thus stimulate the promotion of tumour growth (R).
There is a link between increased levels of ROS and disturbed activities of enzymatic and non-enzymatic antioxidants in tumor cells (R).





How Do Antioxidants Counteract Oxidative Stress and Free Radicals?

The body naturally produces antioxidants like superoxide dismutase, catalase, and an assortment of peroxidase enzymes, as a means of defending itself against free radicals. The antioxidants neutralize the free radicals, thereby rendering them harmless to other cells.
Unfortunately, the antioxidants produced naturally by the body are not enough to neutralize all of the free radicals in the body. Therefore, a constant supply of external sources of antioxidants should be a part of one’s daily diet, in order to reduce oxidative stress and related damage.
Antioxidants have the remarkable ability to repair damaged molecules by donating hydrogen atoms to the molecules. Some antioxidants even have a chelating effect on free radical production that’s catalyzed by heavy metals. In this situation, the antioxidant contains the heavy metal molecules so strongly that the chemical reaction necessary to create a free radical never occurs. When the chelating antioxidant is water-soluble, it also causes the removal of the heavy metals from the body via the urine.


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