Oxidative Stress The Beginning of Disease

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In all living organisms, including humans, takes place a delicate equilibrium between the production and the elimination – by antioxidant defense system – of the so-called “free radicals”. The breaking of this balance, frequently named “oxidative stress”, may induce cellular damage with differencing degrees of severity, leading ultimately, over time, to early aging and to many diseases.

Oxidative stress is a pathological condition triggered by the damaging action on the cells and tissues of the body, caused by abnormally increased amounts of free radicals. Free radicals are single or grouped atoms having at least one external orbital “occupied” by one single electron “unpaired” instead of a couple of electrons “lone pair”.

The body, even in normal conditions, produces a defined amount of free radicals, due to the physiological cell metabolism. Additionally, the following items are additional free-radical sources that contribute to oxidative stress:

Etiology - Examples

Environment factors - Radiations - Pollution

Physiological status - Physical Stress - Pregnancy 

Life-style - Bad food, alcohol, cigarette smoke, inadequate exercise

Psychological factors  - Emotional stress 

Diseases  - Trauma, inflammation, infection, vascular diseases, cancer

Iatrogenic factors  - Drugs, radio-therapy, radiological exams

In a healthy condition, the body is able to prevent free radicals because of the natural defense system of antioxidants, which by the name indicates the ability of these agents to counteract the oxidant action of free radicals.

Over time a build-up of free radicals is potentially dangerous because they have a spontaneous tendency to fill their unfilled external orbital with a second electron. This then creates a very powerful hydroxyl radical (HO-), one of the most dangerous reactive oxygen species (ROS). Hydroxyl radicals can “attack” every kind of molecule (including carbohydrates, lipids, amino acids, peptides, proteins, nucleotides, nucleic acids, and so on). As a consequence of this action, every molecule loses an electron and becomes, in turn, a radical. 

Oxidative Stress on the Biological System

Oxidative Stress

Oxidative stress, being a merely biochemical condition, generally doesn’t exhibit any specific clinical symptoms nor clinical signs. Therefore it will remain unknown, with unavoidable damage to the patient, until the clinician suspects its existence and decides to perform on the patient-specific biochemical tests.

Some of the most common diseases that are associated with a condition of oxidative stress:


2. Acute and chronic alcoholic liver diseases

3. Acute autoimmune myocarditis

4. Acute chest syndrome of sickle cell disease

5. Acute pancreatitis

6. Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome

7. Alcoholic liver disease

8. Alzheimer’s disease

9. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis

10. Arterial/systemic hypertension

11. Asbestosis

12. Asthma

13. Ataxia telangiectasia

14. Atherosclerosis

15. Atopic dermatitis

16. Brain ischemia

17. Bronchopulmonary dysplasia

18. Burns

19. Cancer (several kinds)

20. Cardiopulmonary bypass

21. Cardiovascular diseases

22. Cataract

23. Cellulitis

24. Chemotherapy side-effect

25. Chronic fatigue syndrome

26. Chronic hepatitis C

27. Chronic kidney disease

28. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

29. Chronic renal failure

30. Colitis

31. Coronary artery disease

32. Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease

33. Crohn disease

34. Cutaneous leishmaniasis

35. Cystic fibrosis

36. Diabetes mellitus type 1

37. Diabetes mellitus type 2

38. Dislipidemia

39. Down’s syndrome

40. Eclampsia

41. End-stage renal disease

42. Erectile dysfunction

43. Friedreich ataxia

44. Heart failure

45. Helicobacter pylori infection/


46. Hemodialysis

47. Hepatic cirrhosis

48. Human Immunodeficiency Virus infection

49. Huntington disease

50. Hyperbaric diseases

51. Hypercholesterolemia

52. Hyperhomocysteinemia

53. Hyperlipidemia

54. Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis

55. Interstitial lung disease

56. Ischemia/Reperfusion injury

57. Juvenile chronic arthritis

58. Kidney transplantation

59. Leukaemia

60. Lung cancer

61. Lung injury

62. Macular degeneration

63. Male infertility

64. Ménière’s syndrome

65. Meningitis

66. Mild cognitive impairment

67. Multiple sclerosis

68. Myelodisplastic syndromes

69. Myocardial infarction

70. Myocarditis

71. Neonatal bronchopulmonary dysplasia

72. Obesity

73. Osteoarthritis

74. Osteoporosis

75. Pancreatitis

76. Parkinsonisms

77. Parkinson’s disease

78. Periodontal disease

79. Peritoneal dialysis

80. Photoageing

81. Preeclampsia

82. Primary biliary cirrhosis

83. Professional bronchopulmonary diseases

84. Progeria

85. Psoriasis

86. Psoriatic arthritis

87. Pulmonary hypertension

88. Radiotherapy side effects

89. Reactive arthritis

90. Renal cell carcinoma

91. Respiratory distress syndrome

92. Retinopathy of prematurity

93. Retrolenticolar fibroplasy*

94. Rheumatic disease

95. Rheumatoid arthritis

96. Sarcoidosis

97. Sepsis

98. Sickle cell disease

99. Sleep apnea

100. Spherocytosis

101. Spinal cord injury

102. Stroke

103. Synucleinopathies

104. Systemic amyloidosis

105. Systemic lupus erythematosus

106. Systemic sclerosis (scleroderma)

107. Thrombophilia

108. Tauopathies

109. Tuberculosis

110. Unstable angina

111. Uremia

112. Venous insufficiency

113. Werner syndrome

114. Zellweger syndrome

Oxidative stress is not a “disease”, according to the traditional sense of this word. Indeed, oxidative stress is the unwanted effect of the breakdown of a biochemical equilibrium. Therefore it can impact, often deceitfully, upon the onset and/or the course of several basic diseases. Oxidative stress, as it is not a classical disease, does not exhibit a specific clinical picture, but it hides behind the symptoms and the signs of the basic disease.

Before suggesting any supplementation, every clinician should try to identify and remove the possible cause responsible for the increased production of free radicals. The wide variety of oxidants responsible for oxidative stress and their ubiquitous distribution into the body implies the necessity to have a formula with a wide and complete spectrum of actions.

The complexity of redox networks and redox regulation is being revealed step by step, yet much still needs to be learned. Detailed knowledge of the molecular patterns generated from the principles of the redox code under defined physiological or pathological conditions in cells and organs will contribute to understanding the redox component in health and disease. Ultimately, there is a scientific basis for modern redox medicine through the prevention of disease in the form of a Redox Generator to reduce oxidative stress.

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