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Oxidative Stress and Your Health

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Updated April 27, 2013

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Oxidative stress occurs when free radicals overwhelm the body's defense against their harmful effects. A natural byproduct of metabolism, free radicals are a type of unstable molecule. When left unchecked, free radicals can damage your DNA by robbing other molecules of their electrons (a process known as "oxidation").

In recent years, scientists have linked oxidative stress to aging and a number of diseases. However, some research suggests that antioxidants found in certain natural substances may enhance your health by fighting oxidative stress.

Oxidative Stress and Your Health

Oxidative stress may contribute to the development of many diseases and chronic conditions, including:

Antioxidants and Oxidative Stress

Found in a host of foods and herbs, antioxidants can bind to free radicals and stop them from stealing electrons from other molecules in your body. Research suggests that the following antioxidant-rich substances may neutralize free radicals and increase your defense against oxidative stress:

Beta-carotene, coenzyme Q10, melatonin, vitamin C and vitamin E are also known to act as antioxidants and possibly protect against oxidative stress.

Using Natural Remedies to Diminish Oxidative Stress

To date, no natural remedy or supplement has been proven to cure any condition associated with oxidative stress. Still, following a diet high in antioxidant-rich foods (such as fruits and vegetables) may help improve your overall health. If you're considering the use of any dietary supplement to fight off oxidative stress, make sure to talk to your doctor before starting your supplement regimen.

Sources:

Hininger-Favier I, Benaraba R, Coves S, Anderson RA, Roussel AM. "Green tea extract decreases oxidative stress and improves insulin sensitivity in an animal model of insulin resistance, the fructose-fed rat." J Am Coll Nutr. 2009 Aug;28(4):355-61.

Kairisalo M, Bonomo A, Hyrskyluoto A, Mudò G, Belluardo N, Korhonen L, Lindholm D. "Resveratrol reduces oxidative stress and cell death and increases mitochondrial antioxidants and XIAP in PC6.3-cells." Neurosci Lett. 2011 Jan 25;488(3):263-6. Epub 2010 Nov 19.

Madamanchi NR, Vendrov A, Runge MS. "Oxidative stress and vascular disease." Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol. 2005 Jan;25(1):29-38. Epub 2004 Nov 11.

Thyagarajan A, Jiang J, Hopf A, Adamec J, Sliva D. "Inhibition of oxidative stress-induced invasiveness of cancer cells by Ganoderma lucidum is mediated through the suppression of interleukin-8 secretion." Int J Mol Med. 2006 Oct;18(4):657-64.

Maritim AC, Sanders RA, Watkins JB 3rd. "Diabetes, oxidative stress, and antioxidants: a review." J Biochem Mol Toxicol. 2003;17(1):24-38.

Sasazuki S, Hayashi T, Nakachi K, Sasaki S, Tsubono Y, Okubo S, Hayashi M, Tsugane S. "Protective effect of vitamin C on oxidative stress: a randomized controlled trial." Int J Vitam Nutr Res. 2008 May;78(3):121-8.

Reiter RJ. "Oxidative damage in the central nervous system: protection by melatonin." Prog Neurobiol. 1998 Oct;56(3):359-84.

Allen CL, Bayraktutan U. "Oxidative stress and its role in the pathogenesis of ischaemic stroke." Int J Stroke. 2009 Dec;4(6):461-70.

Logan AC, Wong C. "Chronic fatigue syndrome: oxidative stress and dietary modifications." Altern Med Rev. 2001 Oct;6(5):450-9.

Kirkham P, Rahman I. "Oxidative stress in asthma and COPD: antioxidants as a therapeutic strategy." Pharmacol Ther. 2006 Aug;111(2):476-94. Epub 2006 Feb 3.

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