We are a species that cannot live without breathing. As a result of this circumstance, oxygen has turned into a synonym of life. A fact much less known is that not all oxygen atoms are life supporting. Some are actually quite destructive for our cells. These unhealthy oxygen atoms are unbalanced and constitute the most common "Free Radical" known. The "Oxygen Free Radical" is characterized by having and unpaired electron in its molecular structure. Called " Superoxide", it is quite capable of causing cell damage.
The first line of defense that the body has against superoxide free radicals is the enzyme known as "Superoxide Dismutase" or (SOD), which is considered the most effective antioxidant. The importance of SOD is so paramount for the protection of our cells, that it represents a substantial proportion of the proteins manufactured by the body. In brief, SOD keeps oxygen under control.
In the process of removing superoxide free radicals, SOD rarely operates alone. It requires the enzyme called " Catalase" or (CAT) to remove hydrogen peroxide molecules which are by-products of the reactions created by SOD. Similar to SOD, CAT is abundant in the body. Integrated in all red blood cells, CAT removes hydrogen peroxide from our tissues, preventing both cell damage and , more importantly, the formation of other more toxic free radicals. In nature, and in the body, SOD and CAT always co-exist.
The natural interaction - synergy - between these two antioxidant enzymes constitute the most effective system of free radical control in our bodies.
Superoxide free radicals initiate the breakdown of "Synovial Fluid" ( the lubricating element in the joints of our bodies) causing friction and , eventually, inflammation. For this reason, the attention of clinical SOD research has been focused primarily on inflammatory processes triggered by superoxide free radicals such as arthritis, bursitis and gout.
Deficiency in SOD/CAT is the most notorious nutritional factor in most 'inflammatory' processes. Recent applications of SOD/CAT enhancing foods have also proven to be extremely useful as a (pre- & post) operative supplement which stimulates recovery and reduces convalescence periods remarkably.
Considering the powerful link between free radicals and many of today's health problems, supplements that enhance SOD/CAT activity in the body offer tremendous potential in the field of preventative nutrition.