Oxidative stress is a condition that occurs when there is an imbalance between the production of harmful molecules called free radicals and the body's ability to neutralize and remove them. Free radicals are highly reactive molecules that are produced as natural byproducts of various cellular processes in the body, but they can also be generated by external factors like pollution, radiation, and toxins. When there is an excessive accumulation of free radicals, they can cause damage to cells, including proteins, lipids, and DNA. This damage is known as oxidation.
Oxidative stress is problematic because it can disrupt the normal functioning of cells and tissues, leading to various health issues. It has been linked to numerous diseases, including cancer, cardiovascular disorders, neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, and the aging process itself. The body has natural defense mechanisms against oxidative stress, such as antioxidants. Antioxidants help neutralize free radicals and prevent or repair the damage they can cause. However, when there is an overwhelming amount of free radicals or a deficiency in antioxidants, oxidative stress can occur, potentially leading to cellular damage, inflammation, and impaired overall health.