Oxidative Stress: Harms and Benefits for Human Health

Oxidative Stress: Harms and Benefits for Human Health

Oxidative stress occurs when free radicals (freie radikale) are formed in your body to dominate your body’s defences, this imbalance can lead to cell and tissue damage. Oxidative stress disproportionates the production and accumulation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) in cells and tissues and the biological system’s ability to detoxify reactive products. Cells develop ROS as a result of augmented metabolism or a stress response. 

Glutathione, an antioxidant, is used to mitigate the damage of ROS. Oxidative stress assays are used to determine oxidative stress and measure toxic reactive oxygen species or levels of cellular antioxidants. ROS can play several physiological roles, typically generated as by-products of oxygen metabolism. 

Cells position an antioxidant defensive system based mainly on enzymatic components, such as:

  • Superoxide dismutase (SOD), 
  • Catalase (CAT), and 
  • Glutathione peroxidase (GPx) protect itself from ROS-induced cellular damage.

While most tend to illustrate oxidative stress as harmful for the human body, it is indeed impacted as a therapeutic procedure with a specific degree of clinical success to treat clinical disorders such as cancer. 

Let’s look at the harms and benefits of oxidative stress on human health:

Antioxidants, as the class of compounds, are able to counteract oxidative stress and mitigate its effects on individuals’ health. Oxidative stress arises when variance exists when free radicals are formed and cells’ ability to clear them.

1. Lipid peroxidation

An excess of hydroxyl extreme and peroxynitrite can cause lipid peroxidation, thus damaging cell membranes and lipoproteins. Lipid peroxidation fans quickly as a radical chain reaction, affecting many lipidic molecules. Proteins may be damaged by oxidative stress if not controlled, and oxidative stress can induce several chronic and degenerative diseases, speeding up the body’s ageing process and causing acute pathologies.

2. Cancer and Oxidative Stress

Cancer inception in humans is a complex process demanding cellular and molecular alterations mediated by endogenous or exogenous triggers. Oxidative DNA deterioration is one of those stimuli liable for cancer development, and it can be driven and facilitated by chromosomal abnormalities and oncogene activation determined by oxidative stress. Oxidative stress can also cause a polychromatic amount of modifications against DNA structure.

3. Cardiovascular Disease and Oxidative Stress

(CVDs) or Cardiovascular diseases are clinical entities with a multifactorial aetiology, generally associated with significant risk factors; the most extensively identified factors are: 

  • Hypercholesterolaemia
  • Hypertension
  • Smoking Habit,
  • Diabetes
  • Unbalanced Diet Stress 
  • Sedentary Life

Oxidative stress should be considered a primary or a secondary cause for many CVDs. Oxidative stress acts primarily as a trigger of atherosclerosis.

4. Neurological Disease and Oxidative Stress

Oxidative stress has been connected to multiple neurological diseases like:

  • Parkinson’s Disease, 
  • Alzheimer’s Disease (AD)
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)
  • Multiple Sclerosis 
  • Depression
  • Memory Loss 

In Alzheimer’s disease, several experimental and clinical pieces of research exhibit that oxidative damage plays a pivotal role in neuron loss and progression to dementia. 

5. Respiratory Disease and Oxidative Stress

Research indicates that lung disorders such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), defined by systemic and local chronic inflammation, are related to oxidative stress. Oxidants enhance inflammation by triggering different kinases affecting pathways and transcription factors like NF-kappa B and AP-1.

6. Rheumatoid Arthritis and Oxidative Stress

Rheumatoid arthritis is a severe inflammatory condition affecting the joints and surrounding tissues, represented by macrophages and activated T cell infiltration. Effects of free radicals at the place of inflammation play a pertinent role in initiating and advancing this syndrome, as exhibited by the risen isoprostane and prostaglandin levels in the synovial fluid of affected patients.

7. Kidney Diseases and Oxidative Stress

Oxidative stress is implicated in many renal apparatus diseases such as:

  • Glomeruli- and Tubule-Interstitial Nephritis,
  • Renal Failure
  • Proteinuria 
  • Uremia

The kidneys are negatively impacted by oxidative stress because ROS production induces inflammatory cells and pro-inflammatory cytokine production, leading to an initial inflammatory stage. When the oxidative stress stimuli chronically affect kidney tissues, the consequences will be an initial stage of inflammation and the formation of plentiful fibrotic tissue that degrades organ function, potentially leading to renal failure. 

Specific drugs, such as cyclosporine, tacrolimus, gentamycin, and bleomycin, are nephrotoxic because they advance free radical levels and oxidative stress via lipid peroxidation. Heavy (Cd, Hg, Pb) and transition metals (Fe, Cu, Co, and Cr), acting as potent oxidative stress inducers, are liable for various conditions of nephropathy for some types of cancers.

production of reactive oxygen

8. Sexual Maturation and Oxidative Stress

Oxidative stress could be accountable for delayed sexual maturation and puberty onset. This appears to be accurate when children in prepubertal age and pregnant women are exposed to the same metallic element, which is responsible for an upsurge in free radicals and oxidative stress, as well as

9. Vitamin E

Vitamin E encompasses a constellation of lipophilic molecules synthesized by vegetal organisms and contained in edible oils and seeds and food artificially enriched in α-tocopherol. Several studies described that vitamin E could prevent CD36 mRNA expression induced by cholesterol, thus playing a beneficial role in preventing foam cell formation. Vitamin E modulates the oxidative stress-induced NF-κB pathway, and oxLDL-induced foam cell formation decreases c-Jun phosphorylation expression.

Each form of vitamin E appears to have various regulatory effects when recruiting leukocytes to the allergic inflammation site, strictly dependent on vascular cell adhesion molecule-1 (VCAM-1).  

VCAM-1 is also responsible for activating several signals in endothelial cells that are instrumental in ROS generation, such as NOX2 elaborate activation that generates ROS, which leads to PKCα activation. α-and γ-tocopherol forms of vitamin E exert a differential set of biological effects, which cannot always be regarded as positive to human health; this needs to be considered when considering enriching the vitamin E content into a diet with antioxidant purposes.

10. Flavonoids

Flavonoids are polyunsaturated fatty acids compounds with a benzo-γ-pyrone structure essentially represented in plants, responsible for many pharmacological activities. These substances have been investigated because of their potential health benefits as antioxidant supplements, action mediated by their functional hydroxyl groups, scavenging free radicals, and chelate metal ions. Their antioxidant activity relies on the conformational disposition of functional groups; configuration, substitution, and the total number of hydroxyl groups are essential factors in determining mechanisms of antioxidant activity like ROS/RNS scavenging and metal chelation. Flavonoid determines:

  1. Free radicals are produced when ROS synthesis suppression is responsible for enzymes inhibition or trace elements chelation. 
  2. Scavenging ROS
  3. Improvement of antioxidant defences

Briefly, flavonoids are a class of natural compounds extensively present in foods of vegetal origin (fruits, oils, seeds, etc.), showing good potential in terms of usefulness for human health as antioxidant molecules but also because of some ancillary yet pharmacologically exciting properties. Nevertheless, they need to be managed carefully, and their supplementations into the diet have to consider some potential drawbacks concerning human health and wellness.

Oxidative stress is usually detrimental to human health as a class of compounds able to counteract oxidative stress and mitigate its effects on individuals’ health. Antioxidants gained enormous attention from the biomedical research community. With the above details, we can affirm that oxidative stress has more harmful properties than helpful ones; and are responsible for several pathological conditions affecting different tissues and systems. 

These factors can lead to lifelong diseases like diabetes or cancer, thus being one of the most critical and pervasive harms to human health. While the issue lies in having deficient antioxidants, simply supplementing antioxidants does not fully treat the problem; that’s why oxidative stress is a complex imbalance that affects many pieces of your overall health. 

Get in touch with Helvetica Health Care to discover an extensive range of our range of oxidative stress assay kits. 


Michael Moore is a chartered marketeer and member of the Institute of Marketing with over 35 years experience in the Biotechnology industry, with particular expertise in  International Business Development, distributor management, and international tender business.