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Oxidation – it’s not just your car that’s rusting!

Posted Aug 28 2009 12:00am

Earl R. Stadtman, a National Institute of Health researcher on aging, explains: “Aging is a disease.  The human life span simply reflects the level of free radical oxidative damage that accumulates in cells.  When enough damage accumulates, cells can’t survive properly anymore and they just give up.”  Oxidative damage is the third part of the damage side of the seesaw of damage and repair that determines how our bodies age.

As Wikipedia explains:

Oxidative stress is caused by an imbalance between the production of reactive oxygen and a biological system’s ability to readily detoxify the reactive intermediates or easily repair the resulting damage.  All forms of life maintain a reducing environment within their cells.  This reducing environment is preserved by enzymes that maintain the reduced state through a constant input of metabolic energy.  Disturbances in this normal redox [shorthand for reduction-oxidation reaction] state can cause toxic effects through the production of peroxides and free radicals that damage all components of the cell, including proteins, lipids and DNA.

In humans, oxidative stress is involved in many diseases, such as atherosclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, heart failure, myocardial infarction, Alzheimer’s disease and chronic fatigue syndrome, but short-term oxidative stress may also be important in prevention of aging by induction of a process named mitohormesis.

The rust on your car is a good example of oxidative damage eating away the structure of your car.  Now imagine what that’s doing to your body!  Wrinkles are an external example of this damage that is happening internally throughout your body.

James Joseph and his colleagues (published in the Journal of Neuroscience ) made one of the most important advances in this area of research in 1998 when they demonstrated that oxidative stress is a major factor in age-related neurodegenerative disease.  They showed that the negative effects could be slowed and even reversed by certain antioxidate rich foods like blueberries.

veggiesEating foods with a high ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) score will raise antioxidant levels in the blood by 10-25% and experts have suggested a goal of at least 5,000 ORAC units per day.  Eating eight to ten servings of brightly colored fruits and vegetables or dark greens will help you achieve this level.  Studies, however, have shown that the average American only eats about 3 servings of fruit and vegetables (combined) a day and the most consumed are orange juice and potatoes (fried was even counted!!) – not the most nutritious.  Only 9% of Americans eat five servings of fruits and vegetables per day, the intake recommended by the National Cancer Institute and the National Research Council.

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