There’s a little-known enzyme in your body that packs a huge punch when it comes to keeping you healthy. Think of it as your ultimate “power-player” when it comes to removing toxic matter.
The enzyme is superoxide dismutase, also known as SOD. This antioxidant is naturally made by your own body and if you can increase your levels, you dramatically improve your chances of avoiding illnesses like cancer and living to a ripe old age.
Let’s look at some ways you can do that…
The main reason SOD exists is to protect you from the toxic effects of the chemical superoxide, a key enemy of good health because it’s a free radical.
Breaking superoxide down into harmless particles is known as dismutation, hence the name superoxide dismutase. It’s a huge factor in cancer prevention, because free radicals are believed to be the cause of a wide range of diseases including deadly cancer.
You have SOD in your body, mainly because you already have an abundance of damaging superoxide. Your cells actually make this free radical on their own as a byproduct of the energy-creation process. Think of it as something like car exhaust: Even the most fuel-efficient car still lets off small amounts of contamination. For your body, the “contamination” is free radicals, and in this case, it’s superoxide.
Thankfully, SOD breaks superoxide down into harmless parts – specifically into hydrogen peroxide and oxygen. From there, your body supplies the enzyme catalase to break down the hydrogen peroxide into water and oxygen.
Ample amounts of SOD can increase your life span. Most folks who live past age 90 tend to have unusually high levels of SOD. Makes sense, considering that free radicals speed up the aging process and SOD stops them in their tracks – long before they can damage your organs or other body tissues and cause cancer and other illnesses.
Not just an antioxidant,
But a powerful anti-inflammatory, too!
It should be enough that this enzyme is your body’s most powerful antioxidant and quenches toxic levels of superoxide. It surpasses all the other, more familiar antioxidants that come from vitamin pills and various food sources.
But there’s even more: SOD also serves as an anti-inflammatory agent. This means SOD helps ease the pain of stiff joints. What’s more, clinical studies also show SOD helps maintain healthy blood vessels and a healthy heart. It alleviates the pain of burns, and inflammatory bowel disease. And as a nutrient, it’s even considered 3,500 times stronger than vitamin C.
Arguably your body’s most crucial antioxidant
Now, remember – many free radicals like superoxide are byproducts of your own metabolism – sort of a waste-product that’s produced when your cells burn oxygen for energy. But you also pick up free radicals from the environment. Your body absorbs a slew of them every time you catch a whiff of somebody’s cigarette smoke or get a face full of car fumes, or any other chemical you happen to inhale.
Incredibly, some experts estimate each cell in your body fends off as many as 10,000 attacks by free radicals every day, thanks to enzymes like SOD.
So, consider the implications of one study where mice were genetically engineered so they couldn’t make their own SOD. What happened? They died in just a matter of days due to massive damage from free radicals.
A study published at the beginning of this year in the Journal of Clinical Investigation showed that SOD induced cell death in non-small-cell lung cancer. Other studies show SOD plays a role in slowing tumor growth and alleviating the side effects of cancer.
Although most researchers will tell you they need more studies to be sure of everything, it’s clear that SOD brings powerful results when it comes to cancer prevention and treatment.
Unfortunately for most folks, SOD levels drop as you age. By the time you hit 30, your levels could be too low. That makes it harder to get rid of excess toxins, leaving you open to disease and allowing the aging process to accelerate.
How to boost your body’s SOD levels
The question, then, is how do you get more SOD in your body, so you’re better protected from diseases like cancer and the problems that come with aging?
This free-radical fighter starts to develop before you’re even born. And women appear to have higher levels of SOD than men, which may explain why they live longer. Fortunately, you can supplement the production of SOD with smart lifestyle choices.
When it comes to your eating habits, there’s a good chance you can boost your SOD production by simply eating whole, unprocessed foods and taking vitamin and mineral supplements.
Vitamin C and copper are especially key when it comes to boosting SOD production. It also helps to eat green vegetables like cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and wheatgrass – all have high levels of superoxide dismutase.
But if you need more SOD than your body can create – especially if you’re fending off the effects of cancer or trying to prevent it altogether – you may want to consider synthetic versions of SOD. These come in the form of creams, supplements, and even injections.
The problem with getting supplemental SOD through pills taken orally is that stomach acid destroys most of the nutrient. It never makes it to your bloodstream. Some health advisors believe certain supplements, like the medicinal mushroom chaga, can overcome this.
Chaga has about 10,000 to 20,000 active SOD units per gram. Proponents believe it delivers substantial SOD to the body when ingested.
Rather than eat SOD-rich foods, another approach is to eat things that help your body make more of this crucial antioxidant on its own. The aim is to eat foods that contain specific molecules necessary for boosting SOD production. Wheat sprout extract is one example of such a building block and has been shown to raise the body’s levels of SOD.
Supplement makers have also tried bonding SOD to a biopolymer that can be readily absorbed by the body, like the wheat component gliadin. Studies show a pairing of the two can protect the delicate SOD molecule from harsh stomach acids, so it eventually makes it into your bloodstream.
I’ll certainly be following the research on SOD, as it appears to be an important line of defense against free radicals.
I’m glad to see we’re moving past the recent dilemma where it was tough to raise your levels of this beneficial enzyme. Thanks to orally bioavailable SOD in the form of nutritional supplements, we may be getting close to a solution. For now, if you seek out SOD in supplement form, my research indicates it’s more likely to be effective if it’s coated with gliadin.
These supplements, and especially SOD-boosting foods, are worth a try. The evidence suggests that if you raise your levels of SOD, you’ll be better protected from cancer and other diseases. Best of all, you’ll probably live longer.
- “Dilated cardiomyopathy and neonatal lethality in mutant mice lacking manganese superoxide dismutase.” Li, et al, “Dismutase,” Nature Genetics 1995; 11:376-381 http://www.nature.com/ng/journal/v11/n4/abs/ng1295-376.html
- “Manganese Superoxide Dismutase in Cancer Prevention.” By Robbins D. and Zhao Y. Antioxid Redox Signal. 2013 Jul 18. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23706068