Oxidative stress is a target phrase nootropic users recognize when reading about the neuroprotectant and antioxidant properties of different substances, and the harmful and counterproductive of others. Nevertheless, do you really know what does oxidative stress entail? Here we explain it to you in simple words.
While oxygen is essential for human life, it also plays a role in the breakdown of the same body’s functionality by damaging cells through oxidative processes. Oxidation, in it self, is a pretty natural and continuum process: it is happening right now in our bodies and surroundings. Nevertheless, some of these disturbances are toxic when involving free radicals.
Imagine an iron pipe lying on the ground. As it weathers years of rain, it begins to rust.
Free radicals are those toxic water drops which make your body “rust” through its lifetime.
Thus, a free radical is an uncharged oxygen molecule that has one or more unpaired electrons, making it highly reactive (and often short-lived) with other molecules, such as DNA, protein or lipid; and “steal” their electrons in order to become stabilized. Hence, we get a destabilization in the other organic molecules that can trigger a large chain of free radical reactions that causes serious damage to cells.
In this way, oxidative stress becomes essentially an imbalance between the production of free radicals and the ability of the body to counteract or detoxify their harmful effects through neutralization by antioxidants. An imbalance between oxidants and antioxidants is the underlying basis of oxidative stress, and the general mechanism that explains aging.
In conclusion, every cell that utilizes enzymes and oxygen to perform functions is exposed to oxygen free radical reactions that have the potential to cause serious damage to the cell. Antioxidants are molecules present in cells that prevent these reactions by donating an electron to the free radicals without becoming destabilized themselves. While the free radicals are greedy, antioxidants are generous.