We’re in the middle of a chain reaction! Oxidative Stress and the Role of Antioxidants.

Antioxidants are magic ingredients for our health and our skin. They are our modern-day fountain of youth – just more actual and less mythical. Antioxidants neutralise free radicals and help to prevent oxidative stress, which causes inflammation and cell damage, and is linked to many chronic diseases. Now, I’m no molecular biology expert - far from it, but let me have a bash at trying to explain what this means and why it’s important.

What is oxidative stress?

Atoms function perfectly when surrounded by pairs of electrons, but if an electron loses its partner, the atom creates a free radical to go and steal an electron from another atom. If it was just one atom doing this it wouldn’t matter, in fact our immune cells produce free radicals to fight off invaders, but when we have too many free radicals, the bombardment causes damage to our cell’s DNA, membranes, lipids and proteins, and this is known as oxidative stress. Oxidative stress ultimately results in cell death, and this is known as oxidative damage.

Oxidative stress causes chronic inflammation, which results in further damage to our cells. This damaging inflammation has been highlighted as the cause of many chronic diseases, including heart disease, some cancers, brain diseases, including Alzheimer’s, and autoimmune diseases, and it also causes skin ageing.

What causes oxidative stress?

Oxidative stress is caused by many internal and external factors, including our diet, UV radiation, smoking, stress, environmental toxins, including air pollution, BPA plastics and pesticides, lack of sleep, infections, and lack of exercise.