31 January 2014

Oxidative Stress

Oxidative stress is caused by the overproduction of Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS). Normal amounts of ROS are important to protect the body from pathogens, but high amounts of these ROS can lead to damage in healthy cells, leading to chronic diseases.

It would make sense, then, to take antioxidants to inhibit or lower the action of these ROS. Today, more and more people are taking antioxidants in the form of multivitamins, isolated vitamins or minerals. But, these supplements might contribute to further damage. It is interesting that in the United States, people are spending huge amounts of money on vitamins, despite living in an oversupply of food, yet obesity and the related chronic diseases seem to be unstoppable.

A few points about supplements:

  • The problem is that we did not evolve to absorb nutrients from pills. Human beings, until recently, took all their nutrients from real food. Supplements appeared on store shelves just a few decades ago. Did our digestive system have time to adapt in this short period of time? I don't think so. Our primary source of vitamins and minerals should be food!
  • Vitamin pills do not contain the naturally occurring forms of vitamins. A good example is vitamin E, which has several forms in humans. If we overload our body with only one form, found in a vitamin pill, these other forms will be wiped our by the pill form (they compete with each other). Moreover, the load in a pill is much higher and concentrated than in food (we ingest food slower, than we swallow a vitamin pill). This might cause a big wave of a certain nutrient, challenging the body's coping mechanism.
  • Vitamins and minerals in food are packaged in the ideal way for absorption. In each kind of food, these nutrients act in synergy and enhance each others' action. A vitamin pill contains isolated forms of vitamins and minerals, which do not act the same way as many nutrients together.

Here is a study: Glucose Challenge Stimulates Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) Generation by Leucocytes, showing an association between high glucose level and enhanced ROS production.
"We conclude that glucose intake stimulates ROS generation and p47phox of NADPH oxidase; increases oxidative load and causes a fall in ╬▒-tocopherol [vitamin E] concentration." (my emphasis)
This suggests, that a diet higher in carbohydrates, are more damaging to our healthy cells, by enhanced ROS production. Moreover, it seems that the level of an important antioxidant (vitamin E) is also lower on a high-carbohydrate diet. In a few words: by eating sugar, we have more damaging elements and less protection. A good recipe for cell damage.

Similar to the case of the vitamin C, our levels of certain vitamins might not be dependent on the amounts we consume, but from something harmful (sugar) present in our diet. Once we lower our sugar levels, we have less ROS production and more vitamin E to protect us from damage.

So the point is to remove the damaging factors from our diet, rather that taking extra pills in the hope of overcoming our health issues.

I do believe, however, that some people, with impaired absorption or vegetarians, might need supplements. But is should be assessed and monitored by medical professionals, after making sure that these deficiencies cannot be overcome with a diet change.

Diabetes has been linked to premature aging:
"In diabetes, in cells unable to reduce glucose intake (e.g., endothelial cells), hyperglycemia results in higher intracellular glucose levels. Higher intracellular glucose levels result in increased levels of NADH and FADH, increasing the proton gradient beyond a particular threshold at which the complex III prevents further increase by stopping the electron transport chainThis results in mitochondrial production of reactive oxygen species, activating PARP1 by damaging DNA." (my emphasis)
                                                                           - (Wikipedia)
So if diabetes comes with more damage to the cells and diabetes is a disease of impaired glucose metabolism, then is makes sense to conclude that whatever causes diabetes, also contributes to aging.

Here is a study (done in Singapore) associating the development of diabetes with the consumption of sugar sweetened beverages and even juices:

Sugar-Sweetened Beverages and Risk of Metabolic Syndrome and Type 2 Diabetes
"In addition to weight gain, higher consumption of SSBs [Sugar Sweetened Beverages] is associated with development of metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes. These data provide empirical evidence that intake of SSBs should be limited to reduce obesity-related risk of chronic metabolic diseases." (my emphasis)
Enjoy real food!

Steak with cauliflower and broccoli puree and berry and mustard sauce
(all homemade)

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