Increased levels of oxidative stress and inflammation have been associated with many diseases including neurodegenerative diseases, rheumatoid arthritis, aging, diabetes, and even cancer. Maintaining the body’s internal antioxidant defense is crucial to protect against the build-up of oxidative stress and inflammation.
The superoxide dismutase enzymes play a critical role in reducing oxidative stress and inflammation by breaking down reactive oxygen species (ROS) which is a free radical that causes tissue damage at excessive concentrations.
What is Superoxide dismutase?
Superoxide dismutase is an enzyme that breaks down the superoxide free radical (O₂⁻) into molecular oxygen (O₂) and hydrogen peroxide (H₂O₂)
The superoxide free radical is a by-product of oxygen metabolism and if the superoxide free radical is not broken down by the SOD enzyme the excess levels of superoxide can denature enzymes, oxidize lipids and fragment DNA…. And none of us want that!
What is oxidative stress?
Oxidative stress is an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants in the body. Free radicals are oxygen-containing molecules with an uneven number of electrons such as the superoxide free radicals which need to be broken down by the body’s internal antioxidant enzyme superoxide dismutase otherwise oxidative stress will build up in the body.
The superoxide free radical is broken down into molecular oxygen and hydrogen peroxide, but the hydrogen peroxide still needs to be reduced further by glutathione into water. Glutathione is another crucial antioxidant produced by the body to combat excess inflammation.
Antioxidants are molecules that scavenge free radicals in the body by donating an electron to make them less reactive. Antioxidants are found in fruit and vegetables which is why a high plant-based diet rich in antioxidants plays a crucial role in reducing oxidative stress and inflammation in the body.
What causes oxidative stress?
Inflammation and oxidative stress is a natural defense in response to pathogens such as viral or bacterial infections, injury to tissues, exposure to allergens which stimulate an inflammatory immune reaction and toxic chemicals
As part of the body’s immune response immune cells such as lymphocytes, macrophages and neutrophils release superoxide free radicals and hydrogen peroxide to fight pathogens. In the process of fighting infections, oxidative stress and inflammation levels are increased and need to be broken down by antioxidants in the body such as superoxide dismutase and glutathione so that these free radicals do not continue to cause tissue damage.
Oxidative stress is also produced as a result of the mitochondria using oxygen to make ATP (energy) in the body. The manganese superoxide dismutase enzyme is located in mitochondria to protect the energy-generating mitochondria from oxidative damage. Having healthy mitochondria are key for optimal health in the body as we rely upon the mitochondria to make energy so that all the processes in the body can be carried out.
Through using Ancestry DNA and Strategene I was able to run my genetic report where I discovered that I am homozygous in the MnSOD SNP meaning genetically I have a decreased ability to neutralize these superoxide free radicals which lead to inflammation when elevated.
One of my health concerns that I could never figure out was having inflammation in my skin that was very reactive, would burn easily and turn red easily when touched with a ruddy appearance in my face. Seeing how I am prone to oxidative stress and inflammation just through the necessary metabolism of the mitochondria making energy made a lot of sense to me.
I am also prone to inflammation in my joints which is associated with increased oxidative stress and deficient antioxidant status. Low superoxide dismutase levels have been found in people suffering from rheumatoid arthritis.
Knowing this means it is increasingly important for me to eat an antioxidant-rich diet and foods high in superoxide dismutase to protect against reactive oxygen species such as the superoxide free radical. Manganese is the co-factor for the MnSOD enzyme to function so making sure that enough manganese is obtained and absorbed through the diet is needed to help the SOD enzyme fight free radicals.
Supplementing with superoxide dismutase can be beneficial for anyone with SNPs in the MnSOD gene or who has low antioxidant activity with increased levels of oxidative stress.