Oxygen is essential to life as we know it. It is used by the body in normal metabolic oxidation mechanisms where various reactive oxygen species are produced. For every 1012 oxygen molecules entering a cell each day, it is estimated that 1/100 damages protein and 1/200 damages DNA or RNA. In addition, membrane lipids are oxidatively attacked. Some of the damage is probably repaired but some is not, and over time the aging process is most likely associated with the damaged molecular species. This damage arises from excessive oxidant species and is almost certainly linked to the basis of a variety of degenerative diseases that occur in old age. These are diseases such as cancer, stroke, heart attacks, and neurodegenerative diseases associated with advancing age, e.g., Alzheimer's, Huntington's, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's disease), and Parkinson's disease, and various dementias. Atherosclerosis and diabetes also have been shown to have major oxidative-stress components. Antioxidants can play a significant role in preventing the oxidant damage to cells and tissue. By increasing the entire spectrum of antioxidants we can raise our level of protection against the damaging consequences of oxidants over time. Perhaps if we were to increase the entire group of antioxidants, we could slow the ravages of time and live healthier lives for a longer time. However, it would take continuous treatment over a lifetime to find out, and no such experiment has been reported in humans, simply because of the constraints of time itself. We are not good at making overview observations over long periods of time, but it seems intuitively obvious that we need to protect ourselves from the ravages of oxidative stress continuously. Because we tend to think and act moment to moment, day to day, or year to year does not alter the fact that every second of our lives we breathe in large quantities of oxygen, which we know can have long-term consequences. Perhaps it is because without oxygen there are no consequences and no life either.
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