Of the 56 million deaths that occurred in 2017, 27% were people 50 to 69 years old and 49% were people 70 years and older. The majority of the causes of death in these age groups are age-related illnesses. This includes heart disease, cancer, hypertension, diabetes, and dementia.
Although aging is inevitable, is it possible to slow down the aging process? Antioxidant supplements may be the answer.
Continue reading to learn about a prominent theory of aging and glutathione peroxidase.
Free Radical Theory of Aging
As people age their organs physiologically decline until they eventually fail. Even with a healthy lifestyle, bodily systems can’t go on forever.
This is most clearly seen when the skin develops wrinkles and becomes thinner over time. Another characterization of aging is a slower heartbeat.
There are many theories about how aging occurs and a prominent one is the free radical theory. This theory proposes that we age because of the accumulation of free radical damage.
Free radicals are molecules or atoms that have an unpaired electron in an outer shell. When the body’s cells create energy, they leave behind free radicals as a by-product. These are highly unstable oxygen molecules, such as superoxide, peroxynitrite, and hydrogen peroxide.
The free radicals bond to other molecules and disrupt molecule function.
There is a modified theory called the mitochondrial theory of aging. It suggests that free radicals are made in the mitochondria. This damages mitochondrial DNA, proteins, and lipids.
Because of the damage, mutations occur that increase free radical production in cells.
Free radicals are also called reactive oxygen species (ROS) and oxidants. Oxidative stress occurs when there’s a disproportion of antioxidant and oxidant levels. There are higher oxidant levels.
Other theories of aging include programmed theories and psychosocial theories. Various illnesses have been connected to an increase in oxidative stress.
Illnesses Related to Free Radicals
Free radicals are naturally produced by our bodies, but they are also in air pollutants and enter our systems when we smoke.
A number of diseases are caused by the cumulative damage of free radicals from aging. Cancer, asthma, dementia, inflammatory joint disease, diabetes, atherosclerosis, and age-related macular degeneration.
Vitamin C is an antioxidant responsible for preventing diabetes caused by free radicals. There are supplements with the antioxidant selenium for inflammatory joint disease or arthritis.
GPx: A First-Line Defense Enzyme
Antioxidants are the body’s defense against free radicals. They help decrease the amount of damage done by ROSs by stopping the oxidizing chain reaction. Melatonin, vitamin A, and polyphenols are examples of antioxidants.
One of the antioxidant enzymes is called glutathione peroxidase or GPx. Over time, antioxidants and enzymes are overwhelmed by the increasing numbers of free radicals. More and more damage within the body occurs until the person finally falls ill.
The GPx levels in our systems decline as we age. Studies have found evidence of age-related diseases that are connected to the particular enzyme.
There is also evidence that increasing the amount of GPx in the body will protect you from illnesses caused by free radicals. A GPx supplement could potentially prolong your life or be anti-aging.
GPx is a first-line defense enzyme that breaks hydroperoxides into molecules such as water and alcohol. These molecules are harmless.
GPx also prevents the peroxidation of lipids. First-line defense means GPx acts to stop free radicals before they’ve even formed.
Illnesses Related to Decreased GPx and Glutathione
GPx is particularly active in certain organs. Specific diseases of these organs are associated with a decline in GPx and glutathione (GSH).
Low levels of glutathione in the heart can lead to cardiovascular diseases. Atherosclerosis occurs when plaque builds up in the walls of the artery. The arteries become narrow and harden.
People with atherosclerosis don’t have a lot of GSH or GPx in their hearts. This makes it possible for plaque to continue to build on the vascular walls.
There is initially a high concentration of GSH in the eye. A decline in GSH due to aging makes the eye more susceptible to forming a cataract.
Because not as many ROSs absorbed, the DNA of pigment epithelial cells in the retina are likely to mutate or break down. This causes macular degeneration, an eye disease that eventually leads to blindness.
Some neurodegenerative illnesses are caused by a loss of GPx and GSH. Parkinson’s disease is primarily due to low GSH and GPx. The decrease in the glutathione antioxidant-enzyme system is the biggest antioxidant decrease in the brain.
The loss can also lead to Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and schizophrenia.
Reduced GSH and GPx in the reproductive organs are responsible for male infertility and female hormonal disorders.
Less GSH, along with catalase and superoxide dismutase, is associated with asthma.
The natural reduction of GSH and GPx in older people makes them prone to a variety of illnesses.
Benefits of Glutathione Peroxidase
Glutathione peroxidase has the power to help extend your life. Oxidative stress caused by free radicals targets essential parts of your body at the molecular level. Proteins, lipids, and mitochondrial DNA are damaged and other molecules are mutated.
This harm to your system eventually leads to age-related disease. With low amounts of GPx, you’re more at risk of illnesses such as heart disease and cancer.
As one of the enzymes in first-line defense, it’s important you have enough GPx to protect you from free radicals as you get older.
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