When the body is under “oxidative stress,” this means there is an influx of unstable free radicals (or reactive oxygen species,) that alter healthy cells, causing damage to cell structure, function and DNA, making treatment an option for some. Free radical damage is associated with degenerative disease and accelerated aging. Scientists refer to this as the “free radical theory of aging.”
“The free radical theory suggests that aging is the cumulative result of damage to cells and tissues of the body that arises primarily due to oxidative stress and overload.”
Free radicals are highly reactive molecules that drive reactions leading to cellular damage, particularly targeting cells that are rich in unsaturated fatty acids and sensitive to oxidation. These species can target lipid-rich membranes as well as cellular DNA and proteins to produce an array of toxic effects including inflammation and altered cellular metabolism.
Free radicals are produced in daily normal metabolic reactions (even when we exercise an influx of free radicals are formed from increased oxygen consumption and energy metabolism). External oxidative stressors can come from dietary and water contaminants, cigarette smoke, alcohol, pollution, pesticides and UV rays. It is proposed that these cumulative external stressors have the greatest impact on the body (and skin).
“As we age, our ability to ward off damaging free radicals diminishes, thus making the skin vulnerable and prone to accelerated skin aging.”
Your skin is constantly placed under oxidative stress from UV rays (UVR,) pollution to chemical byproducts we apply on our skin. Clinical studies suggest that UVR induced oxidative stress plays a central role in premature skin aging. Environmental researchers have also looked at the health effects of air pollution on the skin. Recent studies have shown that chronic high exposure to air pollutants have been associated with premature skin aging (triggered by oxidative stress). According to researchers, the skin acts as a “sponge” for certain chemical air pollutants, these toxins build up in skin tissue, clogging pores and stimulating free radical activity.
With age our naturally occurring skin cell antioxidants diminish, leaving free radicals unchecked to break down connective tissue (collagen/elastin) and stimulate inflammatory and irregular reactions in the skin. The combination of depressed skin immunity and exposure to environmental stressors attribute to accelerated skin aging (or photo-aging). Visible and physiological indications include, increased wrinkle formation, a loss of tension and elasticity, decline in skin thickness and circulation, hyperpigmentation, enlarged capillaries and a reduction in the water-binding properties of the skin.
Our bodies naturally produce an antioxidant network to maintain a balance between free radicals and antioxidants. But when free radicals overwhelm the body’s antioxidant defense, additional support is needed. This is where diet and supplementation can benefit. While dietary sources of antioxidants do not have a direct effect on moderating free radical production, they can neutralize free radicals and stimulate production of naturally occurring antioxidants within the body—to the point that balance between free radicals and antioxidants is reestablished.
“Antioxidants give an electron to a free radical without becoming destabilized themselves, thus stopping the free radical chain reaction”
From a nutritional perspective, epidemiological studies have shown that incorporating antioxidant rich foods may help to maintain healthy defense to ward off oxidative stressors that accelerate the aging process. Being slow or fast acting in the body, antioxidants through diet must be obtained throughout the day as they are quenched quickly and absorbed by free radicals. That is why nutrition experts recommend consuming antioxidant rich foods in every meal.
Through diet and supplementation, certain antioxidants can reach the deeper layers of skin tissue to protect skin structure and function from free radical damage. When combined with topical antioxidants and regimens, this holistic approach can best support and restore the health and appearance of the skin.
"Antioxidants are plentiful in fruits and vegetables, especially deep colorful fruits and vegetables, including berries, tomatoes, broccoli, spinach, nuts and green tea."
Because of their unique antioxidant properties, carotenoids and polyphenols are clinically validated to support healthy aging and potentially delay premature skin aging. These naturally derived ingredients can be enriched in the skin through the right balance of diet/supplementation and natural non-toxic topical skincare.
Mediterranean and plant-based diets are naturally rich in carotenoid and polyphenol antioxidants and commonly found in the following foods;
There are also certain vitamins and minerals that are integral skin antioxidants or promote the production of naturally occurring antioxidant enzymes (glutathione, SOD, catalase,) in the body. Some of these include Vitamin C, E, selenium, copper and zinc.
Although research continues to understand the exact mechanism that makes antioxidants effective or ineffective against free radicals, we do know that obtaining antioxidants daily through whole foods and naturally derived ingredients is the most natural and best way to defend the body (and skin,) against oxidative stress.
In Health & Beauty,
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