Despite the popular notion that antioxidants, such as vitamins C and E, offer health-promoting benefits by protecting against damaging free radicals, a new study in the August 10 issue of the journal Cell reveals that, in fact, balance is the key.
In a study on laboratory mice, researchers found that an overload of natural antioxidants could actually lead to heart failure. They’re hoping that their research may pave the way for a new class of drugs to treat or even prevent heart disease caused by “reductive stress.”
Reductive stress is a condition caused by excessive levels of reduced glutathione, which is one of your body’s most powerful antioxidants. When your cells work properly, they produce just the right amount of reduced glutathione, which is healthy for your body. However, in some people, a mutated gene can disrupt the fine balance, causing the cells to produce too much.
The researchers found that by lowering the level of reduced glutathione in mice with failing hearts, they were able to increase their rate of survival dramatically.
“Basically, we prevented them from getting heart failure,” said Dr. Ivor J. Benjamin, the study‘s lead author.
Oxidative stress is associated with a variety of deadly diseases, including heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s.
Cell August 10, 2007, 130(3):427-39
EurekAlert August 9, 2007