Oxidative stress can occur when there is an imbalance of free radicals and antioxidants in the body. The body’s cells produce free radicals during normal metabolic processes. However, cells also produce antioxidants that neutralize these free radicals. In general, the body is able to maintain a balance between antioxidants and free radicals.
Several factors contribute to oxidative stress and excess free radical production. These factors can include:
Uncontrolled oxidative stress can accelerate the aging process and may contribute to the development of a number of conditions.
The effects of oxidative stress vary and are not always harmful. For example, oxidative stress that results from physical activity may have beneficial, regulatory effects on the body.
Mild oxidative stress may also protect the body from infection and diseases. In a 2015 study, scientists found that oxidative stress limited the spread of melanoma cancer cells in mice.
However, long-term oxidative stress damages the body’s cells, proteins, and DNA. This can contribute to aging and may play an important role in the development of a range of conditions.
It is important to remember that the body requires both free radicals and antioxidants. Having too many or too few of either may lead to health problems.
Lifestyle and dietary measures that may help reduce oxidative stress in the body include:
Maintaining a healthy body weight may help reduce oxidative stress. According to a 2015 systematic review, excess fat cells produce inflammatory substances that trigger increased inflammatory activity and free radical production in immune cells.
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