*Geek Box: Oxidative Stress
You’ve likely heard this term, and you’ve definitely heard the term ‘antioxidant’ but what do they really mean? In order to live, we breathe oxygen, eat food, convert that food into fuels (requires oxygen), do physical activities (requires oxygen), and use up energy in these processes (did I mention these processes require oxygen?!). However, all of these processes come at some cost insofar as they create waste products, known as reactive oxygen species (ROS), which are ‘pro-oxidants’. Thankfully, evolution didn’t leave us hanging, and developed internal systems to neutralise these compounds: our ‘anti-oxidant’ defence systems, a network of inbuilt factors coupled with external compounds – like vitamins E and C – obtained from the diet. The production of pro-oxidants is a fact of life: literally life is not possible without generating them. In normal, healthy individuals, these products will be neutralised and eliminated by our anti-oxidant systems. However, ‘oxidative stress’ occurs where the capacities of these anti-oxidant systems are exceeded by the production of pro-oxidants. For example, poor diet quality – specifically low fruit and vegetable intake – smoking, and inactivity, may all exacerbate pro-oxidant levels while also failing to provide appropriate support to internal anti-oxidant defences. Oxidative stress is emerging as a characteristic of major disease progression.