Antioxidants and diseases
In humans, some potentially dangerous molecules can normally be produced. These molecules are called free radicals and in small concentrations are positive for the body, as they play a key role in the body’s immune response as well as in the regulation of certain genes. Nutrition and the environment (ionizing and ultraviolet radiation, pollution, smoking, etc.) have the potential to increase the levels of these molecules resulting in many problems such as obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, atherosclerosis, neurodegenerative diseases, rheumatism, ischemic injuries, renal failure and cancer. In addition, free radicals are implicated in the mechanism of aging.
The human body has the ability to produce a range of antioxidant molecules, notably glutathione, which is found in tissues and in the blood and works by neutralizing free radicals and thereby providing the body with antioxidant capacity. Normally, there is a balance between free radicals and antioxidants. If there is a serious imbalance to the detriment of antioxidants, then the phenomenon of oxidative stress is observed. It can be caused either by a decrease in the action of antioxidants or by increased production of free radicals. Oxidative stress has been associated with a number of diseases, such as cancer and cardiovascular disease.
A number of diseases and pathologies are strongly associated with reduced glutathione levels and, consequently, increased oxidative stress. Scientific data show that Glutathione levels decrease significantly as the stages of heart disease progress from asymptomatic to total failure (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2655715/). Glutathione can be used to monitor the stages of heart disease to help as an indicator of prevention and early treatment of possible cardiovascular failure. Decreased glutathione levels are also observed after ischemic stroke and in type 2 diabetes (more here).
Glutathione levels play an important role in colorectal cancer. In some cases there is an increase in glutathione and in others a decrease which indicates a different response to the disease (more here).
The role of glutathione is important also in the digestive system and in autoimmune diseases such as Crohn’s syndrome, where lower glutathione levels are observed. Over the last few years, more and more diseases have been associated with lower glutathione levels, and this is evident from the increasing number of studies carried out and concluding that the disease is a result of the disorder of the redox balance.
The antioxidants that we take from food help maintain good glutathione levels and maintain health. The determination of glutathione and a personalized healthy diet plan including an adequate amount of antioxidants help prevent oxidative stress related diseases.