Cellular Regulators

Superoxide Dismutase, the Body’s Helper to Remove Free Radicals during Exercise 

Superoxide dismutase (SOD) is an enzyme that operates as therapeutic compound against reactive free radicals (Younus H, 2018). It is normal for humans to produce free radicals as part of normal metabolism. In addition, there are more free radicals manufactured during exercise. Increased oxidative stress to the tissues is affected by endurance physical activity, but also by diet, a person’s training level, aging, dehydration and some other factors (Kawamura T and Muraoka I, 2018). 

In looking at the chemistry, free radicals are molecules within the atomic orbital which have 1 or many unpaired electrons. They are produced throughout the body. 

It is known that regular exercise helps the body in many ways including to promote the antioxidant defense system. By exercising regularly it helps to increase the body’s SOD antioxidant enzyme activity (Miyata M et al, 2008). 

Animal studies have shown that oxidative stress levels not only increase in the blood, but also tissues including skeletal muscles. One study showed that acute endurance exercise caused an increase in free radical production within tissues (Kawamura T and Muraoka I, 2018). 

Skeletal muscle is highly developed and specialized. During endurance training there is repetition of muscle contractions, which causes various physical responses. Exercise increases the Krebs’s Cycle aerobic, metabolic pathway activity and with it a robust increase in reactive oxygen species (ROS) production (Steinbacher P and Eckl P, 2015). It is SOD and other antioxidant enzymes that are the main defense against ROS produced during exercise. 

Also, it has been noted that during the recovery period after exercise there are intense levels of free radicals produced by phagocytes (pacman type cells that consume harmful particles) with increased muscle damage (Malech HL et al, 1987). 

SOD levels during endurance exercise increases to help remove the large number of free radicals generated. One study showed how intense training caused a significant increase SOD activity in the soleus (the calf of the lower leg) after exercise to help get rid of free radicals (Powers SK et al, 1994). 

Another study compared endurance training, resistance training and a combination of endurance and resistance exercise and their effects on antioxidant capacity and oxidative stress. Erythrocytes (red blood cells) were measured for SOD activity. 

The study showed that SOD activity increased by 21.8% in the endurance group, 14.5% in the combined exercise group and 9.5% in the resistance exercise group. (Azizbeigi K et al, 2013). Although, there are a number of different factors that effect SOD levels. 

It has been recommended that consuming a diet high in fruits and vegetables that contain antioxidants to help increase SOD levels in the body. These nutrients include polyphenols, vitamin A, beta carotene, vitamin C, alpha lipoic acid, etc. (Ighodaro OM, Akinloye OA, 2018). 

If you have any health condition and/or take prescription medication it is best to talk to your health care provider prior to starting any new exercise or dietary change. 

In summary, Superoxide dismutase (SOD) is an enzyme that helps to remove reactive free radicals from the body. Exercise is beneficial, but it is good to be aware that there are more free radicals produced during exercise with a greater chance for oxidative damage to tissues. SOD levels increase during exercise to help remove the free radicals. Foods rich in fruits and vegetables with antioxidants help to ward off the oxidative damage to tissues.

This article is for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. 

Individuals with health concerns or on medication should check with their health care practitioner before trying any new type of eating plan . 

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