Oxidative stress is a phenomenon increasingly discussed in the health field. Responsible for premature cell aging and numerous health problems, it is important to understand how it works and how to counteract it. We offer a detailed analysis of oxidative stress and strategies to limit it.
What is oxidative stress?
The oxygen paradox
Oxygen is an essential molecule for our survival, but it is also involved in a process called oxidative stress. In the long term and under certain conditions, the latter contributes to the development of numerous chronic diseases and degenerative conditions such as :
- Cancer, Parkinson's disease,
- Alzheimer's disease,
- Cardiovascular disease,
- Cerebrovascular accidents,
This phenomenon is paradoxical in that oxygen, while enabling us to live, also generates free radicals that can cause our progressive decline.
Definition of oxidative stress
Oxidative stress, also known as oxidative stress or oxidative pressure, occurs when an imbalance is created between the production of free radicals and our antioxidant defenses. Free radicals are then found in excess in our bodies, denaturing everything in their path: proteins, lipids, cells and even DNA.
To visualize this, let’s imagine our body rusting in the same way as metal left in the open air. It is this oxidation that leads to aging, particularly at the cellular level.
The effects of oxidative stress on our health
Oxidative stress can have many harmful effects on our health.
Studies have shown that oxidative stress is involved in the onset of many serious human pathologies:
- Cancer: oxidative stress damage to DNA can stimulate the development of cancer.
- Degenerative diseases: Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s are linked to greater vulnerability to oxidative stress. Excessive free radicals can damage brain cells, increasing the risk of contracting these diseases.
- Cardiovascular disease: some studies suggest that free radicals play a key role in the emergence of many cardiovascular diseases.
Oxidative stress is also responsible for chronic inflammation. It is also involved in the formation and evolution of rheumatoid arthritis, a chronic disease affecting the joints.
Free radicals and oxidative stress
Free radicals are molecules that attack our cells, causing oxidative stress. These highly reactive molecules are produced naturally by our bodies, but they also come from external sources.
An imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants causes oxidation in the body. However, free radicals are not just molecules that are harmful to our health. They play an important role in cell signalling.
Free radicals accelerate the aging process of the skin and various organs.
The main causes of free radical formation
Free radicals are generated by our bodies when we breathe oxygen. Their production also depends on numerous environmental factors, such as UV rays, smoking, alcohol consumption, a diet too rich in saturated fats and refined products, intensive sports activities, a sedentary lifestyle, pollution, stress and fatigue.
The impact of sunlight and pollution
Although the sun is indispensable and necessary to life on Earth and to our morale, repeated overexposure to it during the hot hours can be deleterious. UV rays encourage the body to produce free radicals. Overexposure to the sun can lead to sunburn, the result of oxidative stress.
Pollution and dust damage our skin through the overproduction of free radicals. They accelerate oxidative stress, aggravating the effects of sun exposure.
The effect of diet and smoking
An unbalanced diet stimulates the production of free radicals. Pesticides, flavorings, colorings and preservatives, particularly in industrially processed foods, also contribute to the imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants.
Tobacco contains tar, which contains numerous oxidant-generating products.
How can we combat oxidative stress?
To protect itself from the deleterious effects of free radicals, the body has a complex set of defenses at its disposal:
- Antioxidants from food sources (pigments, fatty acids, polyphenols, etc.)
- Endogenous antioxidants (SOD, CoQ10, Gluthation, Ascorbic acid…)
- Trace elements such as selenium, copper, manganese, zinc, etc;
These elements play a vital role as cofactors for antioxidant enzymes.
Natural solutions to combat oxidative stress
Diet against free radicals
An antioxidant-rich diet includes plenty of fruit and vegetables. It is advisable to give priority to :
- Fruits rich in vitamin C: kiwis, citrus fruits, strawberries, melon… and vitamin E: avocado, mango, blackcurrants…
- Vegetables rich in vitamin E: lamb’s lettuce, dandelion, spinach… and vitamin C: broccoli, Brussels sprouts, watercress…
A healthy lifestyle
Sport: the ultimate stress reliever!
Sport is good for your health, both in mind and body. While physical activity helps combat stress in general, it is also useful for eliminating oxidative stress, provided you adopt a moderate pace. In fact, it can become deleterious in the event of repeated intensive effort.
Sleep deprivation is bad for your health. When we sleep, the body takes advantage of the opportunity to set antioxidant processes in motion.
Protecting your skin from external damage
The skin is often the first organ to suffer from oxidative stress, as it is constantly exposed to external aggressors such as pollution and UV rays.
Food supplements to combat oxidative stress
The vitamins C and E contained in fruit and vegetables have a strong antioxidant potential, which is why it can also be interesting to choose dietary supplements such as liposomal vitamin C.
Pigments are valuable antioxidants. Natural phycocyanin or one of our synergies with trace elements are powerful antioxidants formulated to limit the formation of free radicals and the effects of oxidative stress.
Certain plants can also help combat oxidative stress. For example, we recommend ginger, whose root contains no fewer than forty antioxidant molecules, or "superfoods" such as spirulina, which is alkalinizing, antioxidant and one of the most nutrient-rich of all foods. Green tea has been known for thousands of years to limit free radicals thanks to its high polyphenol content.
Oxidative stress: a major health issue
Although we can't totally avoid it, there are many ways to prevent it. Adopting a healthy lifestyle means we can effectively combat the formation of free radicals by enriching our plates with vegetables, fruit and good antioxidant fatty acids, as well as practicing regular exercise and choosing quality food supplements that offer deep cellular support.