How do free radicals like reactive oxygen species (ROS) affect the body? They can have an impact on everything from the health of your skin to contributing to the onset of serious chronic diseases, including cancer. Excessive ROS formation has the potential to cause oxidative stress, leading to cell damage and, at worst, cell death.
By boosting your body’s antioxidant levels, you can defend your cells from the harmful effects of ROS. Vitamin E, in particular, may be effective at stopping ROS in its tracks. Here’s what you need to know about ROS and how Vitamin E could be a successful weapon against it.
A closer look at ROS
Reactive oxygen species, also known as oxygen radicals, are unstable molecules that contain oxygen, causing reactions with other molecules in cells. As reactive oxygen species build up within the body, they can cause significant damage to DNA, RNA and proteins. In some cases, they can even lead to cellular death, disrupting normal physiology.
Your body contains antioxidants that protect cells from damage caused by ROS. An imbalance between the production of ROS and your body’s antioxidant defenses has been linked to a variety of serious diseases and conditions, including cancer, pulmonary hypertension, asthma and retinopathy. The nature and extent of the damage depends on a combination of specific molecular interactions and cellular locations.
How do ROS form in the body?
Oxygen is found in abundance in cells throughout the body. It has a unique molecular structure that allows it to accept free-roaming electrons that are naturally generated through oxidation within the cells, producing ROS.
Mitochondria are a major contributor to ROS production, serving as the site where uncoupling of electron transport occurs. Other cellular components, including cytoplasmic enzymes, endoplasmic reticulum-bound enzymes and the surface of the plasma membrane also contribute to the process.
What is oxidative stress caused by ROS?
In simple terms, oxidative stress is an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidant defenses in the body. It occurs when free radicals, unstable molecules that cause damage to healthy cells, outnumber antioxidants. There are many reasons why the imbalance occurs, including hyperoxia, inflammation or ischemia-reperfusion. Oxidative stress caused by ROS also occurs simply due to limited or impaired antioxidants within the body.
Controlling free radicals is the key
Keeping free radicals in check is essential for preventing oxidative stress from harming the body’s cells. How can you keep free radical levels low? Generally, following a healthy lifestyle can keep free radicals from multiplying and prevent oxidative stress from taking hold in the body. This includes getting enough sleep, getting exercise and following a diet rich in antioxidants, particularly Vitamin E.
Vitamin E as an everyday defense against ROS
While research is ongoing, studies have shown that Vitamin E is effective in the fight against free radicals and oxidative stress. This essential nutrient doesn’t get as much attention as other vitamins like C or D, but it’s crucial for limiting free radical production.
Vitamin E is fat-soluble, which means it’s stored in fat and used on an as-needed basis when the body detects the presence of free radicals. As you consume Vitamin E, either through foods or supplements, your body uses it as an antioxidant to protect healthy cells.
Scientists are currently studying whether Vitamin E can serve as a defense against serious chronic diseases—including cancer—that are typically associated with an abundance of free radicals. If you want to boost your body’s antioxidant levels and potentially prevent some of the most harmful effects of ROS and free radical production, increasing your Vitamin E intake may be an ideal option.
Increase your Vitamin E intake to fight back against oxidative stress
How can you boost your Vitamin E levels to keep oxidative stress from affecting your health? Most people don’t reach the recommended daily intake of Vitamin E every day (15mg for average adults). There are several rich sources of Vitamin E, including nuts; pressed oils like safflower, hazelnut, sunflower or almond; and fatty fish, most Vitamin E-rich whole foods are also high in fat. For some, supplementing with Vitamin E is an ideal solution, especially if you’re following a fat-conscious diet.
Supplementing may sound appealing, but always get a doctor’s permission first. Your doctor can determine whether a Vitamin E supplement is right for you. Should you receive approval, take your time to find an all-natural supplement that offers your body the purest form of this essential nutrient.