Oxidative stress is a pathological condition of the body that develops when the physiological balance between oxidants and antioxidants is lost. Oxidative stress is a real chemical stress to which the body is subjected and should not be confused in any way with the psychophysical stress. The persistence of the condition of oxidative stress determines structural alterations in tissues and cells, which can have two main consequences:
- the permanent impairment of vital cell functions to the point of "death";
- the cell can continue to function even if not optimally. This can contribute to the onset of more or less severe diseases, in most cases chronic or degenerative in nature.
Causes Oxidative Stress
The main cause of oxidative stress is an excessive production of highly reactive oxidant chemicals, the famous free radicals. Among these the most important are ROS, the reactive oxygen species. To explain the relationship between free radicals and oxidative stress, we must first understand what is meant by a free radical. Free radicals are molecules produced naturally by the body during the numerous chemical reactions of oxidation that take place continuously inside the cells.
These are physiological processes necessary for cellular functioning, energy production, the elimination of waste substances and for the activation of the immune system in response to possible inflammatory processes.
Although they are essential for the proper functioning of the body, free radicals are oxidising substances. For this reason their production must always be kept within a certain level considered physiological. Their uncontrolled production, in fact, leads to the oxidation of many vital molecules such as proteins, lipids and nucleic acids (DNA and RNA) resulting in damage, even serious, at the cellular level.
You can learn more by reading our article on free radicals and their role in the body.
In addition to internal causes within the body, there are also a number of external factors that can affect the body's increased production of free radicals, in particular:
- environmental pollution
- active and passive smoking
- alcohol and drug abuse
- taking certain medications
- exposure to harmful chemicals
- improper eating habits
- metabolic imbalances, in particular diabetes, overweight and obesity
- excessive and incorrect exposure to UV radiation or X-rays
- prolonged and too intense aerobic physical activity
- psychophysical stress
Obviously the contextual presence of several factors, external and internal, multiplies the negative effect on the production of free radicals and therefore on the level of oxidative stress.
RAO: Antioxidant Protection Network
There are natural defense systems that help keep the level of free radicals produced under control. In particular, our body is equipped with a real "antioxidant protection network" consisting of substances of various kinds, some synthesized internally and others assimilated with the diet, including some vitamins (E, C, A), flavonoids, albumin, polyphenols, selenium, zinc, L-cysteine, alpha lipoic acid, Coenzyme Q10 and glutathione.
As long as oxidant and antioxidant substances balance each other, the organism is said to be in redox balance. When this balance is broken and, specifically, oxidant substances take over from antioxidant ones, starting to multiply without control, a state of oxidative stress is generated.
If you want to learn more, you can read our article dedicated to natural antioxidants and the foods that are rich in them.
Symptoms of Oxidative Stress and Related Diseases
Oxidative stress cannot be considered a disease in the traditional sense of the term and consequently has no obvious symptoms directly related to it. Being the consequence of the disruption of a biochemical balance in the body, however, can influence the onset or course of other diseases. The condition of oxidative stress is therefore hidden behind the symptoms and signs of other conditions.
There are numerous diseases for which, until now, a correlation with oxidative stress has been suspected or demonstrated. These include, for example, obesity, hypertension cardiovascular diseases, neurodegenerative diseases, some eye and skin diseases. In addition, in general, the state of prolonged oxidative stress accelerates the processes of cellular aging.
Oxidative Stress Assessment Test
Perhaps not everyone knows that there are scientifically validated tests through which it is possible to determine the level of oxidative stress in the body. These are instruments that, using the classic colorimetric method, are able to measure the level of free radicals present in plasma.
Oxidative stress test: how to perform it
The examination is very simple and lasts a few minutes. It consists of taking a drop of capillary blood by pricking the fingertip with a very small needle. Immediately after the sample is taken, a special machine is used to separate the plasma, which is the liquid part of the blood. The plasma, which changes colour depending on the level of free radicals present, is subjected to photometric control which, by means of a monochromatic light beam and the use of specific reagents, determines the amount of radicals present.
The unit of measurement used is called the Carratelli unit (U. Carr), named after the Italian biochemist who developed this methodology. Depending on the number of units of free radicals detected, the oxidation state of the organism can be determined, in particular:
|U. Carr||Oxidative Stress Assessment Level|
|250-300||Situation of Normality|
|321-340||Mild Oxidative Stress|
|341-400||Medium Oxidative Stress|
|401-500||Strong Oxidative Stress|
|> 500||Extreme Oxidative Stress|
With the same method, but using different reagents for photometric control, it is possible to measure the level of antioxidant defenses present in the body.
Oxidative Stress: How to Cure It
After having seen what oxidative stress means and what the causes of this condition are, let's now see how to combat oxidative stress. In this regard, we start by saying that in addition to an excess production of free radicals, the redox balance can also be broken by a lowering or poor functioning of the body's natural antioxidant defense. This can occur mainly due to a reduced absorption or reduced dietary intake of the substances that make it up.
Returning to the oxidative stress and how to combat it, in the presence of a state of oxidative stress is necessary as first thing to intervene by raising the body's antioxidant defenses. The best treatment in this case is an adequate diet based on foods rich in antioxidants, mainly of plant origin (fruits, vegetables and other natural substances). It is also necessary to intervene by reducing or eliminating external factors that contribute to increasing the production of free radicals such as smoking, alcohol, drugs, psychophysical stress, overweight.
Oxidative Stress and Food Supplements
In some cases it is also useful to combine the diet with some food supplements based on natural active ingredients recognized in the literature for their antioxidant action. These include carotenoids, in particular Beta Carotene Lycopene and Zeaxanthin, Vitamin E, A and C supplements, and also supplements of Resveratrol, Polyphenols, Coenzyme Q10 and Alpha Lipoic Acid.
Discover Organic Lycopene, the Organic Lycopene supplement with high antioxidant power.
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