Superoxide dismutase is a powerful antioxidant protein that can neutralize free radicals and prevent them from damaging tissues. Superoxide dismutase acts as an enzyme, by triggering special signals that start chemical reactions. It specifically targets and destroys a free radical named superoxide, which is produced by the body as part of normal aerobic metabolism.
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Two different types of superoxide dismutase exist. They have the same purpose but are active in distinct areas of the cells. The superoxide radical has a negative charge, so this enzyme uses metal ions with positive charges in order to neutralize it. The first type of the superoxide dismutase enzyme can be found inside the cytoplasm, which is the main body of the cell. This is based on either copper or zinc and shields all of the structures inside the cytoplasm from damage.
The cellular organelles, which control the respiration and metabolism of the cell, are located in the mitochondria. It is a very vulnerable area, since it is the metabolism that produces free radicals. The second type of superoxide dismutase uses manganese as the active metal and neutralizes the radicals immediately after they are produced.
Superoxide dismutase is critical for human health and if the enzyme becomes mutated or its level becomes too low, a disease named amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) starts. ALS is caused by damage to nerve cells, as a result of free radicals attacking them due to the lack of the enzyme that should be available for protection. The disease can be slowed if people who suffer from it take large amounts of superoxide dismutase. Other antioxidant compounds have also been tested as a possible treatment for this disease.
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The opposite might also be true, and superoxide dismutase has been tested as a possible cure for other conditions caused by free radical oxidation. Many types of inflammatory diseases could be cured this way, in particular inflammatory bowel problems like colitis. The effects of long-term exposure to cigarette smoke or other similar toxins might also be countered by this enzyme.
Superoxide dismutase is produced inside the body and can also be sourced from a few food sources. The plants that include superoxide dismutase are cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, barley grass and wheatgrass. In order to synthetize it, the body needs plenty of copper and vitamin C. This strong antioxidant can also be supplied as enteric-coated pills, injections, sublingual supplements or creams that are applied externally. In order for it to be active inside the body, it must reach the small intestines and escape the acids that can destroy its structure in the stomach. As a result, it should only be taken as either sublingual or enteric-coated pills.
Melons are also very good sources for this enzyme. Some of the best varieties for this purpose are cantaloupes, honey dews and casaba melons. Other plant sources are soy sprouts, corn, cremini mushrooms, wheat, sesame seeds, asparagus, chard and spinach. Some of them also provide copper and zinc, which are required for internal production of superoxide dismutase. Superoxide dismutase can also be found in oats, raspberries, green beans, brown rice, mustard greens, pineapple, romaine lettuce or strawberries. The best animal food for it is calf liver.
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In order to protect the skin from free radical damage, which is one of the main causes of wrinkles and aging, many creams with a rejuvenating effect include superoxide dismutase. These cosmetic products are equally powerful against age spots and speed up the healing of wounds and burns. They might also prevent skin cancer, since this potentially lethal disease is also believed to be caused by free radicals.
Free radicals, as well as various other toxins and harmful chemicals present in the environment, have become a major concern in recent years. Due to media coverage, many people are now aware that these compounds are very dangerous and actually represent the root cause for many diseases and health issues. As a result, we are now more concerned with our diets and we try to eat healthy food and avoid products known to be dangerous. Sadly, most of the plants that we eat have been exposed to large amounts of pesticides and these toxins from the crops are present in the entire food chain.
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Exposure to free radicals and toxins is one of the major causes of aging and lead to grey hair, wrinkles and patchy skin pigmentation at increasingly early ages. The free radicals can actually directly attack our hair follicles, causing hair loss and eventually baldness. This is the reasons why food supplements have become so popular lately, as people try to increase their intake of antioxidants in order to stop this damage.
Superoxide dismutase (SOD) is widely recognized as one of the most effective antioxidants, able to neutralize most types of free radicals. This enzyme is particularly effective against superoxide and hyper oxide, which are produced during metabolic processes at cell level. Superoxide is believed to be one of the root causes of aging, since it damages the tissues from within, triggering the discoloration of the skin and the appearance of wrinkles. As part of the natural defence mechanism against superoxide, our bodies produce SOD. However, the actual amount decreases as we age.
If taken regularly, supplements with superoxide dismutase can compensate for the diminished internal production. The enzyme boosts the rate of healing in general and speeds up recovery from burns, protects the brain after head injuries, reduces ischemia reperfusion injuries and can treat ulcers of the cornea. Superoxide dismutase can cure many conditions that are caused by oxidation or inflammation, for example liver fibrosis, macular degeneration, respiratory disorders, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, heart diseases, inflammatory bowel disease, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease or cataracts.
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In combination with nitric oxide, superoxide dismutase is known to increase the growth rate of hair follicles and prevent baldness. While nitric oxide boosts circulation at scalp level and allows more nutrients to reach the follicles, superoxide dismutase neutralizes the free radicals that are the actual cause of hair loss. Studies have shown that supplements that include these two compounds delay hair loss and in some cases help it regenerate.
Superoxide dismutase supplements are not only active at hair level and actually provide overall body protection from the action of free radicals. This enzyme delays the effects of aging and can prevent a wide range of diseases that are caused by oxidative damage and inflammation.
Examples of such conditions that can be treated with superoxide dismutase include also arthritis and prostate problems. SOD can also decrease the bad side effects of drugs used to treat cancer, as well as the effects of long-term action of radiation or smoke. Superoxide dismutase can be applied externally as a counter for hyperpigmentation, facial wrinkles, scar tissues, as well as for faster healing of wounds and burns.
Superoxide dismutase has strong anti-inflammatory effects. It is one of the most potent weapons in the arsenal of white blood cells, which release it in large quantities against deleterious bacteria. However, this can also have dangerous consequences in cases of arthritis or autoimmune diseases, when it leads to severe inflammation. The problem is that the superoxide released by the white blood cells in inflamed area can completely kill the affected tissues. The result is even more inflammation, which leads to more damage. However, SOD can counter superoxide, which stops inflammation and breaks the circle, preventing tissue destruction. The same mechanism is used mainly by European doctors in the treatment of sports injuries or osteoarthritis.
Despite its powerful effects, SOD is considered to be very safe in both injected and ingested forms. However, it wasn't properly studied during pregnancy, so women should avoid it both before and after they give birth.
A common problem is that some types of superoxide dismutase are not properly absorbed from the intestines. Like most supplements, there is also a risk of buying products that don't actually have the specified amount of the active substance, so you should stick with trusted producers.