Oxidative stress is linked to many chronic illnesses throughout the body; including atherosclerosis and many other cardiovascular diseases. Oxidative stress is caused by an overaccumulation of free radical reactive oxygen species (ROS). The body contains a complex system to control the balance of ROS. This system is composed of molecules and enzymes required for healthy antioxidant activity. These include antioxidants such as vitamin C, vitamin E, and glutathione.
Glutathione is considered the body’s “master” antioxidant and is critical for the maintenance of antioxidative balance, detoxification, and helping protect cells from oxidative stress. Deficiencies in glutathione have been linked to hypertension and many other chronic illnesses.
Outside of the glutathione system, other important molecules help support antioxidative status and are often measured and quantified in research. Nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2 (Nrf2) is a transcription factor associated with over 200 genes. It helps to modulate antioxidative status, support a healthy inflammatory response, and preserve homeostasis in the presence of cellular stress. Several phytonutrients help support the Nrf2 pathway and cardiovascular health, including resveratrol and pterostilbene.
In addition, certain probiotics may help support the body’s response to hydrogen peroxide-induced oxidative stress. In a laboratory study, Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG was shown to help promote free radical scavenging potential. Another study found that L. casei and L. acidophilus exhibited the highest activity to promote antioxidative status when compared with 11 other Lactobacillus strains.
An enzyme derived from Lactobacillus plantarum AKU1009a was shown in a laboratory study to help shield certain cells from hydrogen peroxide-induced cytotoxicity. Other strains of L. plantarum have also helped modulate apoptosis, malondialdehyde levels, and protect certain cell lines from oxidative damage in the laboratory setting. In addition, increases in mitochondrial membrane potential and the modulation of glutathione and superoxide dismutase levels were observed.
In addition to probiotics, newer evidence suggests that certain trace minerals such as selenium may help support antioxidative status and many aspects of cardiovascular health. Selenoenzymes such as glutathione peroxidase and cytosolic thioredoxin reductase help support the body’s ability to protect against oxidative damage. Deficiencies in selenium levels have been associated with the incidence of certain cardiovascular-related diseases. Supplementation with selenium has been shown to help support total antioxidant capacity, glutathione levels, and lipid metabolism.
A prospective randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial explored the potential role of certain micronutrients in support of cardiovascular health. This study included data from 221 older adults. The treatment arm consisted of 200 mg of coQ10 and 200 µg of selenium daily for 48 months. Quality of life and parameters related to antioxidative status and cardiovascular health were assessed. Significant improvements in cardiovascular mortality risk and parameters related to systemic oxidative stress were observed at the study terminus. In particular, improvements related to antioxidative status and free thiol levels were observed to be greater in older individuals with lower selenium levels at baseline.
Many more micronutrients promote antioxidative status, mitochondrial health, and cardiovascular function. These include nicotinamide riboside, rhamnan sulfate derived from a unique seaweed, dark berries, and more.
By Dr. Cory Ambrose, ND, MAT