Free Radicals and Oxidative Stress
Free radicals are highly reactive molecules produced in the body naturally as a byproduct of metabolism (i.e., oxidation) or through exposure to environmental toxins such as ultraviolet light and tobacco smoke. Their instability stems from the fact that they contain at least one unpaired electron in their outer shell. Our bodies typically keep a tight lid over the number of free radicals, but it occasionally loses control, resulting in a harmful situation in which a greater number of free radicals in the body can be kept in balance by antioxidants. To understand why this occurs, it is important to first recognize that electrons dislike being alone. In the case of free radicals, electrons constantly seek out another electron for themselves (which then stabilizes them). They do so by circulating in the body, pouncing on and binding to anything they encounter, including healthy cells, proteins, and DNA. This phenomenon is known as oxidative stress and can cause negative results to the body.
What causes an increase in free radicals?
Under normal circumstances, your body maintains a balance between free radicals and antioxidants – a state also referred to as “oxidative equilibrium”. Free radicals do not cause damage to your body so long as this oxidative stability is maintained. That said, two things could disrupt this delicate balance. The first is an increase in the production rate of free radicals, and the second is a decrease in the removal rate of free radicals.
The excessive production of free radicals and the resulting oxidative stress can be caused by several reasons. This might include:
- Environmental conditions such as pollution and radiation
- Alcohol consumption and tobacco products
- Exposure to hazardous chemicals and pesticides
- Some medications
- Excessive physical exercise
Effects of excess free radicals on the body
By circulating in the blood, free radicals carry the risk of causing widespread damage to the functioning of the entire body.
Oxidative stress can physically manifest as:
- Muscle or joint pain
- Wrinkles and gray hair
- Headaches and sensitivity to noise
Malondialdehyde (MDA) is known as the end product of lipid peroxidation, a process in which free radicals attack fat molecules in the body). An increase in free radicals can lead to excessive lipid peroxidation and, in turn, oxygen damage in tissues. In other words, an increase in free radicals can cause an overproduction of MDA.
MDA can be detected in most biological samples (e.g., serum, plasma, tissues, and urine). The compound’s easy detection explains why it is now one of the most often reported analytes for evaluating the effects of oxidative stress on lipids.
Evaluation of MDA with Urine
The number of free radicals and the resulting level of oxidative damage present in the body can be determined by measuring MDA levels in urine. Put simply, you can use your MDA level as a rough indicator of the body’s current oxidative stress level. In general, the body is known to produce an excessive amount of free radicals due to factors like repeated exposure to an unpleasant environment, excessive exercise, overconsumption of food, and an inconsistent sleep pattern, among other factors. This underlines why you should pay attention to the concentration of MDA in your urine, as high levels of the MDA can indicate the need to tweak certain aspects of your daily lifestyle habits.
Relying on urine MDA measurement as an indicator of oxidative stress in the body provides two benefits. The first is that it’s a low-cost and straightforward procedure that does not require sophisticated equipment. The second is that the urine test is more sensitive than even the MDA serum-free radical tests.
Free radicals can damage DNA, predisposing them to breakage. Furthermore, the oxidation of lipids can also harm various cellular components, including cell membranes.
Free radicals can also oxidize individual amino acids, the building blocks of protein, by changing their structure and compromising the enzymatic function of proteins.
The harmful effects of oxidative damage on the body can sometimes be reduced with simple measures, such as by increasing your antioxidant intake.
Score: 10/10, Label: Optimal, Value: Negative
This is an optimal level for oxidative stress. If Vivoo measures a negative urine MDA value, it means that your body is maintaining the necessary balance between free radicals and antioxidants.
Score: 5/10, Label: High, Value: Positive
This means that there are too many free radicals in comparison to antioxidants. If Vivoo measures a positive urine MDA value, it means that your body contains -too many free radicals compared to antioxidants, which is resulting in your body being exposed to oxidative stress.
What are the long-term negative consequences of oxidative stress?
Excessive free radicals in the body can change how your cells code genetic information. This can result in errors in protein synthesis, which can create changes in protein structure.
Oxidative stress can result in the following situations in the long term:
- Easy sun damage
The body needs both free radicals and antioxidants. The important thing is to maintain the balance between the two. The key to preventing free radical formation lies in the elimination of oxidative stressors. Here is a list of nutritional and lifestyle recommendations that can help you eliminate oxidative stressors in the body:
- Eat a balanced diet rich in vegetables and fruits
- Limit processed foods, especially foods high in sugar and fat
- Quit smoking
- Reduce stress
- Prevent or reduce exposure to pollution and chemicals
- Maintain a healthy body weight
Changing your lifestyle habits is key to preventing long-term oxidative stress and damage. In addition to quitting unhealthy and harmful habits, you should also treat chronic infections, as they are also known to be a significant cause of oxidative stress. It is also worth considering adopting other healthy habits, like going for a walk a few times a week, as these habits can help lower your stress levels and, which will reduce oxidative stress in the body.
Antioxidants play a crucial role in the human body. More specifically, antioxidants protect your body from free radicals which are known to both contribute to and exacerbate oxidative stress. In light of this, antioxidants may assist with cell protection. Hundreds of different compounds are thought to contain antioxidants. Each plays a distinct role and can interact with others to promote the body’s optimal functioning.
Ensuring that you consume enough antioxidants throughout your diet is one way of avoiding oxidative stress. You can easily get enough antioxidants by eating five servings of fruits and vegetables a day.
Antioxidant-rich foods include:
- Dark chocolate
- Red cabbage
- Purple or red grapes
- Orange vegetables
Antioxidants found naturally in foods include vitamins C and E, flavonoids, and carotenoids. It is worth noting that plant-based foods are particularly rich in phytonutrients, which are often also antioxidants (e.g., flavonoids, flavones, catechins, polyphenols, and phytoestrogens). Fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and spices are also all good sources of natural antioxidants. Other antioxidant-rich food sources include cocoa, tea, and coffee.
Here is a list of some of the most important dietary antioxidants, along with their respective functions:
- Vitamin C: This is a powerful, water-soluble antioxidant that is a necessary component in the diet.
- Vitamin E: This powerful, fat-soluble antioxidant plays an essential role in preventing oxidative damage to cell membranes.
- Flavonoids: This is a class of plant antioxidants.
Each antioxidant serves a different function in the body, which means that they are not interchangeable with others. It is thus crucial for you to eat a wide range of foods in a diverse diet. The more kinds of antioxidants you consume, the better your body can ward off oxidative stress and damage.
Thankfully, you can eat more antioxidants by making minor tweaks to your diet. For instance, you can try to consume a wide variety of different-colored vegetables, as they tend to be rich in antioxidants. You can also snack on berries, which are fruits high in antioxidants.
Exercise increases oxidative stress in the short term. That said, you shouldn’t avoid physical activity for this reason, because research shows that regular strength training lowers oxidative stress markers and increases antioxidant stores in the body. It’s not just resistance training that’s beneficial for wellness, either. Walking can also help promote your body’s antioxidant levels. You could also reduce oxidative stress by avoiding exposure to direct sunlight when you exercise.
Another type of physical activity to consider is Tai Chi. Recent studies demonstrate that it can reduce oxidative stress and that Tai Chi practitioners exhibit lower levels of oxidative stress and higher amounts of protective antioxidants than individuals who go on regular walks. Alternatives to Tai Chi include yoga and meditation, as these are both mind-body disciplines highly similar to Tai Chi and are thus thought to produce similar positive outcomes for your well-being.
The environment is one of the most significant contributors to oxidative stress. Air and water pollution can trigger the formation of free radicals in the body, which ultimately leads to oxidative damage. People working in the heavy chemical and cleaning industries are also known to exhibit high oxidative stress levels.
Vivoo Oxidative Stress Parameter
Monitoring your urinary MDA levels can potentially help you detect oxidative stress early. There are many benefits to using Vivoo as your primary way of measuring your oxidative stress levels. First, it’s a low-cost and straightforward process and doesn’t require any expensive equipment. Second, the App means that you can check on your oxidative stress levels in real-time at any place and time, and even from the comfort of your home! Best of all, the App shares personalized lifestyle and nutritional advice with you that are designed to help you achieve your optimal wellness.