In our previous post, we reviewed the source of and damage caused by free radicals in our bodies, more commonly known as oxidative stress. The declining production of antioxidants and the resulting growth of free radical damage in our bodies contribute to aging, and medical scientists and enlightened physicians are becoming increasingly aware how it contributes to inflammation and over 200 diseases as well.
Measuring the level of oxidative stress in our bodies is difficult, however, because free radicals cannot be easily measured directly. Indirect measures are used, such as a blood test determining the levels of TBARS (ThioBarbituric Acid Reactive Substances). Much like cholesterol levels, we typically are not aware of the levels of oxidative stress in our bodies. But it is a virtual certainty that as we grow older, our levels of oxidative stress increase.
It is fascinating when you consider how over the years most of us have become familiar with the word antioxidants and accept that they are good for us. Walk down any grocery store aisle, and you can’t help but notice various labels touting products that are high in antioxidants. Compared to processed foods in a box or package, however, it is always better to get your antioxidants from fresh fruits and vegetables. Green leafy vegetables, various beans and legumes, and fruits such as blueberries and cranberries are excellent. But is the amount of antioxidants that we get from foods enough?
Vitamins C and E and beta-carotene are often cited as effective ways to reduce free radical damage and oxidative stress. Research has shown that while these antioxidants help, they cannot adequately combat all the free radicals in our bodies. The reality is that one molecule of vitamin C or E can only neutralize one free radical molecule. It is a losing battle against the enormous number of free radicals our bodies continually produce and we realistically cannot consume bushels of blueberries, oranges, or beans to keep up.
Ironically, the latest scientific research has found that high levels of standard antioxidants may actually react with free radical molecules to cause more free radicals, oxidative stress, and damage to our bodies. There is also evidence that excessive amounts of vitamins can be toxic to our bodies. Clearly more is not better.
So what can we do to effectively reduce free radicals and oxidative stress in our bodies? Scientists have found that the most effective way to fight free radicals is to trigger the body to produce more of its own free-radical-fighting enzymes.
Our next blog will reveal a remarkable way that scientists have found to turn on
our survival genes and generate antioxidant enzymes within our bodies naturally.