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Superoxide Dismutase: The Antioxidant Enzyme that Combats Inflammation

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Superoxide dismutase - Dr. Axe

It’s been called the most important antioxidant that’s made within the body for a reason. Superoxide dismutase (SOD) plays a major role in fighting free radical damage and inflammation.

In fact, this powerful enzyme forms the front line of defense against reactive oxygen species that lead to cellular damage within the body.

Researchers have found an association between superoxide dismutase deficiency and a number of pathologies in both humans and animals.

Because we naturally experience decreased antioxidant enzyme levels as we age, using SOD supplements may be beneficial for conditions like chronic inflammation, neurodegenerative disease and hypertension.

What Is Superoxide Dismutase?

Superoxide dismutase is an antioxidant enzyme that’s found in all living cells within the body.

What is superoxide dismutase used for?

The enzyme works to speed up chemical reactions in the body, and it plays a critical role in reducing oxidative stress that’s associated with the formation of many life-threatening diseases.

Superoxide dismutase forms can be categorized into four groups, including copper-zinc-SOD, iron SOD, manganese superoxide dismutase and nickel SOD. These forms of the antioxidant enzyme are distributed throughout the body in different subcellular compartments.

Superoxide dismutase function depends on the form and its ability to absorb properly in the body. What are known as SOD1 and SOD2 are found in humans and other mammals, while SOD can also be found in plants.

The enzymes catalyze the conversion of superoxide, which is a reactive oxygen species that’s produced during aerobic respiration, the chemical reaction that transfers energy to our cells.

Benefits

1. Reduces Oxidative Stress

When antioxidant levels in the body are lower than those of free radicals, we face major health concerns. This can happen as a result of poor diet, ingesting too many toxins and aging.

We actually need free radicals for proper immune function. They are naturally produced as byproducts of cellular reactions, breathing oxygen and metabolizing foods and produced by the liver for detoxification and to destroy damaged cells, bacteria and viruses.

The problem with free radicals is that they are constantly looking to “react” with cells in order to steal one of their electrons. This makes cells that were well-functioning before now in need of a missing electron, which creates a chain reaction within the body and the production of even more free radicals.

In the end, an abundance of electron-hungry free radicals can destroy healthy cells and tissues, harming and aging the body over time.

This is often referred to as “oxidative stress,” and it occurs when the balance of antioxidants and free radicals in the body is disturbed. When antioxidant levels become too low, free radical levels increase and cause harm.

Research shows that superoxide dismutases play an important role in the antioxidant defense against oxidative stress in the body.

What does SOD do in the body?

According to the International Journal of Health Sciences, the enzyme can be used as a pharmaceutical in treating various diseases that result from oxidative stress. SOD is known as an antioxidant-based mimetic that may be the future of oxidative stress targeted therapies in chemoprevention, according to researchers.

2. Reduces Inflammation

The superoxide dismutase enzyme serves as an anti-inflammatory agent. Superoxide dismutase research shows encouraging results for its use as a human therapeutic agent in acute and chronic inflammatory conditions, including burn and wound injuries.

When SOD levels were measured in patients with chronic inflammation, their enzyme activity was significantly lower when compared to healthy individuals. Researchers suggest new therapeutic possibilities that target superoxide dismutase antioxidant pathways so that pro-inflammatory responses can be limited.

3. Relieves Arthritis Symptoms

An animal study conducted in the U.K. found that a reduction in SOD levels is associated with the earliest stages of osteoarthritis. The enzyme has shown to be down-regulated in osteoarthritis cartilage in both human and mouse models.

This may be due to elevated oxidative stress with decreased SOD levels, according to researchers.

Other studies have shown that the antioxidant benefits of SOD and vitamin E have an anti-inflammatory role in experimentally induced arthritis.

4. Helps Fight Cancer

Recent research shows that there’s a significant association of low extracellular superoxide dismutase expression with reduced cancer patient survival. This suggests that low SOD levels promote an internal environment that favors cancer progression.

A study published in Free Radical Biology & Medicine indicates that high levels of SOD inhibit tumor growth and metastasis, indicating its role as a tumor suppressor.

A study published in Antioxidants & Redox Signaling suggests that dietary supplement-based superoxide dismutase for cancer prevention provides another opportunity for antioxidant-based cancer prevention. According to researchers, “new mechanistic studies have revealed that SOD inhibits not only oncogenic activity, but also subsequent metabolic shifts during early tumorigenesis.”

5. Boosts Skin Health

Superoxide dismutase creams and other personal care products are used to reduce free radical damage to the skin and lower signs of aging. SOD’s antioxidant effects boost the health and appearance of your skin, and it is often used to prevent wrinkles, fine lines and age spots.

Superoxide dismutase for skin care is also known to help wound healing, soften scar tissue and protect skin against UV rays.

Risks and Side Effects

More research is needed to fully understand potential superoxide dismutase side effects when supplements are used to treat certain medical conditions. Some researchers have expressed concern about the risks of consuming SOD supplements made from animal sources because the animal may be sick or diseased.

Some mild side effects that have been reported after SOD intravenous administration are pain and irritation at the injection site.

It’s important to consult with your health care professional before using SOD supplements to improve symptoms of any medical condition. Researchers aren’t sure that antioxidant enzymes from animal sources are safe for regular and long-term consumption.

There also isn’t enough evidence to recommend SOD for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, so people in these circumstances should use caution unless advised otherwise by their health care professionals.

Supplement Dosage and Preparation

Superoxide dismutase supplements are used to promote the body’s defense against free radicals and inflammation that cause serious health conditions. They can be taken orally or given as an injection to fight certain conditions, such as osteoarthritis, bladder infections and lung damage.

The appropriate superoxide dismutase dosage depends on your health condition, age and gender. For the most accurate information on how to use SOD supplements, seek advice from your health care provider.

Research shows that daily or weekly IV injections of SOD range from eight to 80 milligrams, depending on the condition being treated. Clinical studies also indicate that a 5o0-milligram dosage of superoxide dismutase from plants can be taken once daily over a six-week period.

In the past, pure superoxide dismutase supplements didn’t supply many health benefits because the enzyme was being deactivated by other enzymes and acids when it passed through the digestive tract. Since, scientists have formulated newer supplements that are meant to be bioavailable because the enzyme is combined with protective proteins that are derived from wheat and other plants.

These proteins allow superoxide dismutase to pass through the intestines intact and allows it be absorbed into the bloodstream.

Like superoxide dismutase, catalase is an antioxidant enzyme that removes hydrogen peroxide from the body by converting it into water and oxygen. Hydrogen peroxide is a powerful oxidizing agent, which makes catalase another extremely important enzyme in reducing oxidative stress and the risk of cell damage.

You can find an SOD supplement complex that contains both superoxide dismutase and catalase, among other super antioxidants. You can also find a catalase supplement with no other antioxidants added.

Foods

Where is superoxide dismutase found?

SOD is available in many fresh food sources. The top superoxide dismutase foods include:

  1. cabbage
  2. Brussels sprouts
  3. wheat grass
  4. barley grass
  5. broccoli
  6. peas
  7. tomato
  8. mustard leaves
  9. spinach
  10. honeydew
  11. cantaloupe
  12. chickpeas
  13. pumpkin seeds
  14. cashews
  15. hazelnuts

How to Increase Levels

It’s normal for enzyme levels to drop as the body ages, which may lead to a superoxide dismutase deficiency. This makes older adults more vulnerable to developing oxidative stress-related diseases.

There are a few ways to increase superoxide dismutase levels. Your body makes the antioxidant enzyme naturally, but you can eat fresh food sources of SOD to increase your levels without having to rely on supplementation.

If adding antioxidant foods to your diet isn’t enough and you are using SOD to fight a particular health condition, supplements and IV doses are available.

Final Thoughts

  • Superoxide dismutase is an enzyme that we make naturally within the body.
  • Is superoxide dismutase an antioxidant? Yes!
  • It’s often taken for its ability to fight free radical cell damage. Superoxide dismutase benefits also include reducing inflammation, fighting cancer, boosting skin health and relieving arthritis pain.
  • What foods contain superoxide dismutase? Natural sources of superoxide dismutase include cabbage, peas, broccoli and spinach.
  • You can also find SOD supplements, and it can be used intravenously by a health care professional.
Josh Axe

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