Genomics and Oxidative Stress
Oxidative Stress. A hot topic in helping to address many health issues related to our modern lifestyles.
- Do you recommend antioxidant supplements for your patients?
- Which antioxidants are right for them?
- How much do they need?
- Can patients get all antioxidants they need from food?
- How do you know?
Genomic testing is able to answer these questions with much more specificity than best guess, or trial-and-error approaches.
We all generate free radicals—highly reactive, unstable molecules produced as a consequence of normal metabolism. Free radicals can damage cells and even DNA unless they are neutralized by antioxidants such as vitamin A, Vitamin E, or Vitamin C, which are all part of the antioxidant response.
Free radicals positive ions; they are missing electrons. Antioxidants donate an electron to make free radicals less reactive, and rendered harmless as they move through the antioxidant cascade. Vitamins and minerals participate in the exchange of electrons to protect cell membranes, cell organelles like mitochondria, and DNA from the toxic effects of free radicals. If not neutralized, free radicals are associated with increased cancer risk and signs of aging.
But just taking vitamins is not enough. We also have a highly effective internal system that is even more powerful than vitamins. This system is called the antioxidant cascade, and is led by Nrf2 – the “master antioxidant”. We need both systems to be functioning optimally in order to combat all of the free radicals we encounter every day.
Here’s a great way to visualize the process of oxidation:
The apple above is analogous to what happens in cells that are unable to quench free radicals. Many gene SNPs are associated with antioxidant-free radical processes. Understanding how certain genes impact free radical quenching may hold the key to slowing down or even reversing the chronic diseases and premature aging.
One gene in particular is considered a master antioxidant gene. Nrf2 is pivotal in maintaining a balance between antioxidant genes, protecting DNA, and it signals cancer fighting genes to turn on. It triggers the start of the entire antioxidant cascade, involving more than a half dozen other genes.
If the function of one or more of these genes is impaired, the antioxidant pathway might produce fewer enzymes that neutralize the damaging effects of free radicals. Depending on which genes are affected, and how much oxidative stress is being generated by diet and lifestyle, additional support with specific antioxidants and nutrient cofactors may be beneficial. Without a genomic testing, clinicians are left to guess the way through which nutrients and antioxidants, in what amounts, and in which delivery systems will optimize free radical quenching for the patient.
The Ultimate Wellness test provides comprehensive assessment of genes involved in oxidative stress response and the nutrients needed for these to functional optimally.
Learn more about personalizing approaches to antioxidants using genomics in our Genomic Medicine Certification Program.