Oxidative status and your well-being
One of the most important functions of the liver is the detoxification of foreign compounds. The highly fat-soluble nature of most of these compounds stresses the importance of the existence of complex enzyme systems within the human body to convert these compounds to water soluble compounds, which can be excreted via the kidneys. These detoxification enzyme systems have broad substrate specificity in order to be able to handle a broad spectrum of different compounds. Depending on the chemical characteristics of a compound, it can follow two types of enzymatic modification pathways, which are known as Phase I and Phase II detoxification reactions.
Phase I reactions are also known as functionisation which expose functional groups to form reactive sites. This can improve water solubility in itself or allow Phase II reactions to take part. Phase II detoxification reactions are also known as conjugation reactions which uses a variety of compounds and bind them to the initial Phase I products to further improve water solubility. These biotransformation or detoxification processes require the presence of certain cofactors, which often insufficient or lacking from our modern day diet.
There exist a great amount of individual variability in the detoxification enzyme systems, and these systems are also highly responsive to environmental conditions, lifestyle and genetic differences. Detoxification ability may therefore, play an important role in the development of certain chronic conditions and diseases, including the development of different types of cancers, Parkinson’s disease, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome and immune dysfunction syndromes. Since the discovery of individual differences within the detoxification enzymes systems, a lot of research was focused on the ability to measure detoxification enzyme activity. The activity of different detoxification enzymes can be monitored with the use of different probe substrates, and has the advantage of giving a real-time estimate of the activity of these enzymes. This approach is clinically significant, because the combined affects of genetic, environmental, and endogenous factors on detoxification are reflected.
The group known as reactive oxygen species (ROS) include a range of molecules and free radicals which are derived from molecular oxygen and include both oxygen radicals as well as non-radical oxygen derivatives. Hydroxyl radicals are formed in the presence of certain metals and are extremely reactive and can react with most bio-molecules, including proteins, lipids, polysaccharides and DNA.
ROS normally exist in all aerobic cells in balance with antioxidants defence and repair systems which are under tight control. These biochemical antioxidant systems include specific enzyme systems which may differ in activity amongst individuals. Small fluctuations in ROS concentration play an important role in intracellular signalling. However, when the critical balance between ROS production and the antioxidant defence become disturbed it will result in state known as oxidative stress. Oxidative stress can arise due to uncontrolled increased concentrations of ROS, deficient antioxidant defence, inhibition of electron flow or exposure to xenobiotics. Oxidative stress can lead to various pathological processes which result in tissue damage and cell death and are therefore implicated to play an important role in the development of several human diseases and ageing.
Under normal circumstances detoxification metabolism systems are sufficient to prevent damage to the human body. There exist a great amount of inter-individual variability in detoxification metabolism due to a number of reasons including our genetic make-up, the environment and our lifestyle. Deficiencies in detoxification metabolism can result in a state of oxidative stress with consequent damage to various systems. This damage can ultimately lead to various pathological conditions. Co-substrates which are mainly derived from our diet are very important for optimal function of detoxification enzymes. When deficiencies within these systems are due to depletion of co-substrates, it can be treated with supplementation. This kind of treatment can enable individuals to excrete harmful chemicals more readily, and ultimately reduce the risk for the development of diseases.
The only way in which an individual’s ability to biotransform (detoxify) harmful compounds can be assessed is by testing. For this purpose we have developed functional tests which monitor phase I and II detoxification and reactive oxygen species and allow for cofactor and supplemental treatment in case of deficiencies. Based on the outcome of these tests, a specially prepared supplement for each individual really brings the concept of personalised medicine into perspective.