The Main Antioxidant Enzymes
Even though the production of antioxidant enzymes in the body is a complex process that is not yet totally understood, there are several processes that we are aware of and which seem to constitute a large part of the finished system.
The antioxidant enzyme defense system consists of hundreds of different substances and mechanisms. This is why only an adequate combination of whole foods, such as sprouted food concentrates, will contain all of the known and unknown nutritional factors that the body requires to enhance its antioxidant enzyme supply.
SUPEROXIDE DISMUTASE & CATALASE
We are a species that cannot live without breathing. As a result of this circumstance, oxygen has turned into a synonym of life. A fact much less known is that not all oxygen atoms are life supporting. Some are actually quite destructive for our cells. These unhealthy oxygen atoms are unbalanced and constitute the most common "Free Radical" known. The "Oxygen Free Radical" is characterized by having and unpaired electron in its molecular structure. Called " Superoxide", it is quite capable of causing cell damage.
The first line of defense that the body has against superoxide free radicals is the enzyme known as "Superoxide Dismutase" or (SOD), which is considered the most effective antioxidant. The importance of SOD is so paramount for the protection of our cells, that it represents a substantial proportion of the proteins manufactured by the body. In brief, SOD keeps oxygen under control.
In the process of removing superoxide free radicals, SOD rarely operates alone. It requires the enzyme called " Catalase" or (CAT) to remove hydrogen peroxide molecules which are by-products of the reactions created by SOD. Similar to SOD, CAT is abundant in the body. Integrated in all red blood cells, CAT removes hydrogen peroxide from our tissues, preventing both cell damage and , more importantly, the formation of other more toxic free radicals. In nature, and in the body, SOD and CAT always co-exist.
The natural interaction - synergy - between these two antioxidant enzymes constitute the most effective system of free radical control in our bodies.
Superoxide free radicals initiate the breakdown of "Synovial Fluid" ( the lubricating element in the joints of our bodies) causing friction and , eventually, inflammation. For this reason, the attention of clinical SOD research has been focused primarily on inflammatory processes triggered by superoxide free radicals such as arthritis, bursitis and gout.
Deficiency in SOD/CAT is the most notorious nutritional factor in most 'inflammatory' processes. Recent applications of SOD/CAT enhancing foods have also proven to be extremely useful as a (pre- & post) operative supplement which stimulates recovery and reduces convalescence periods remarkably.
Considering the powerful link between free radicals and many of today's health problems, supplements that enhance SOD/CAT activity in the body offer tremendous potential in the field of preventative nutrition.
Glutathione Peroxidase is another of the body's major protectors against free radicals. This antioxidant enzyme consists of the amino acid Glutathione and the trace mineral 'Selenium'. These two nutrients team up to combat a specific class of free radicals called peroxides. the main biological function of selenium in mammals is a component of the Glutathione Peroxidase enzyme. Many of the attributes of selenium and Glutathione are actually attributes of Glutathione Peroxidase.
Cell membranes consist primarily of lipids (fats). These lipid membranes are very susceptible to damage by free radicals, especially peroxide radicals. This is why rancid fats (lipid peroxides) have proven to be highly toxic. Glutathione Peroxidase prevents destruction of cell membranes by removing several classes of these lipid peroxides.
The main symptoms of excess peroxide free radicals include heart disease, liver disease, premature aging and skin disease such as skin cancer, eczema, wrinkling, age spots, dermatitis and psoriasis. Peroxide free radicals mediate much damage to the body by impairing liver functions. Consisting of nearly 50% fatty tissue, the liver is very susceptible to lipid per oxidative damage.
Although used primarily for skin related problems, many environmentally sensitive and chemically poisoned people report that Glutathione Peroxidase helps them control their allergies and build resistance to the effects of pollution. Generally speaking, all of the antioxidant enzymes are important where pollution is a concern due to their ability to remove free radicals generated by toxic substances. The list of protective effects of Glutathione Peroxidase is growing and is in no way limited to any single symptom such as age spots. The effects of excess per oxidation in our cells is diverse and dangerous and must be limited to maintain cellular health.
Methionine Reductase is a unique enzyme that has demonstrated an ability to remove an extremely toxic free radical called the "Hydroxyl Radical". The hydroxyl radical is commonly formed through reactions involving heavy metals and other less toxic free radicals, such as mercury reacting with hydrogen peroxide. The hydroxyl radical has the ability to damage any type of organic tissue and is considered to be the most dangerous free radical. Hydroxyl radicals are also the main toxins generated by exposure to excessive radiation. With their ability to damage any type of tissue, symptoms directly related to hydroxyl radical induced tissue damage are difficult to identify.
One effective detoxifying application for Methionine Reductase is in the removal of free radical toxins generated by the mercury found in dental fillings. Another interesting application of Methionine Reductase is for the modern day athlete. It seems that hydroxyl radicals are also formed during exercise. This is especially true if we are exercising in oxygen starved closed rooms or in a auto exhaust filled polluted environments. It is amazing to see joggers running along the road during rush hour traffic. Quite possibly, they are doing more harm than good!
Most avid exercisers are always aware of the need to obtain extra nutrition to fuel their activities. What many miss, is the importance of cleaning out the extra metabolic wastes that are a direct result of this exercise. Hydroxyl radicals can be created when we burn fat molecules to produce energy as in strenuous exercise or dieting. This is due to the lack of evacuation of chemicals and toxins stored in the fatty tissue which are released when these tissues are used for fuel. These toxins, when not properly evacuated, generate the formation of hydroxyl radicals.
People supplementing their diets with "Methionine Reductase" have reported greater resistance to the ill effects of pollution as well as greater endurance, stamina, flexibility and the ability to recover from extensive exercise. Although it is generally important to exercise, our modern civilized environments force us to compensate for free radical by-products if we wish to gain health or longevity form our workout programs.