Oxygen is crucial for life. It drives all of our cellular processes, and allows us to make energy.
We’ll take a minute to see how oxygen ties into the aging process, and what you can do about it. There is an irony afoot, as you’ll soon see.
We cannot live for more than a few minutes without oxygen. It is perhaps our most pressing, if not most important nutrient.
But it is as if we have agreed to a “Faustian” bargain in our ability to reap energy using oxygen. Its use comes with a metabolic payback.
To drive these energy-harvesting processes, we develop what are known as “reactive oxygen species.” These are oxygen byproducts that have been modified with an energizing, destabilizing electron packed onto the molecule. This process is known as oxidation.
This is the Faustian exchange. We get to use oxygen to efficiently make energy, but for its use we are saddled with a reactive, oxidized troublemaker. In this form, oxygen becomes a molecular “wild child.”
Given the opportunity, a reactive oxygen molecule will gum up our enzymatic processes, modify our fats, and damage our DNA. Clinically this is seen as inflammation. An inflamed body ages more rapidly, with more symptoms, and more disability.
These energy byproducts act like toxins in our body. We need to detoxify from even our basic, life-giving metabolic processes.
This “wild child” can be buffered with antioxidants and tamed. Some of the most potent antioxidants are found no farther than the end of your fork. Think blueberries, citrus fruits and leafy greens. Many plant-based nutrients serve to balance out this troublesome molecule.
Are you buffering your reactive oxygen species? Have you thought to influence the way that you age by measuring and modifying these molecules?
In the following posts, I will expand more on this concept, and the ways that unbalanced oxygen metabolism drives aging, disability and fatigue.
There are some simple tests that we can use to measure our state of inflammation. A High Sensitivity C-Reactive protein is an excellent and economical start (hs-CRP). This marker is made by the liver in response to the pro-inflammatory interleukins IL-1, IL-6 and TNF-alpha.
These interleukins can be measured as well, but typically their measurement is utilized in the research setting. The markers 8-OHDG (8-Hydroxy-D-guanosine) and Lipid Peroxides are two commercially available markers that show the effect of inflammation on our DNA and fats.
This “wild child” oxygen molecule allows us to live and thrive.
But don’t let it be the bull in your body’s china shop.