Researcher’s latest hypothesis is that chronic disease, such as diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease, dementias and some cancers are linked to a failure to generate sufficient biological oxidants, called reactive oxygen species (ROS).

Each day, billions, maybe trillions of chemical reactions occur in the human body. For the proper reactions to occur, positive and negative charges from molecules react with each other to create new molecules or to change the configuration of existing molecules or proteins. ROS is an instrumental molecule in the body that is responsible for a great portion of these chemical reactions. However, the understanding of ROS is still thin, and it’s role largely unclear. In fact, you may have heard of antioxidants — those super important molecules found in super foods, tea, coffee, fruits and vegetables that are thought to prevent chronic disease.

So which ones are better? Oxidants (ROS) or antioxidants?

Well, researchers propose that the cause of chronic disease is not the excess of ROS, but the lack of it. Each cell makes it’s own share of oxidants and antioxidants. But there is speculation that “there is a balance” between the two. A cause of chronic disease may be due to the fact that the body’s cells do not have enough ROS to cause healthy chemical reactions that result in the unfolding of proteins or the creation of molecules that are needed to sustain health. And how are these additional healthy ROS oxidants created?

Exercise.

When you exercise, ROS is created, which may have a beneficial effect on multiple molecules, proteins and tissues in the human body. ROS is needed to a certain extent to promote healthy chemical reactions in the body. Because many do not meet exercise recommendations, there may be a lack of ROS production, which results in the reduction of healthy chemical reactions in the body. In support of this theory is the evidence from multiple research trials that show that “athletes who take large quantities of antioxidant supplements (AKA vitamins) do not seem to benefit or benefit less from their exertions.” Yet, another argument against taking vitamins…

The theory regarding the balance between oxidants and antioxidants and its role in chronic disease has been researched to some extent, but is yet to be fully understood. However, a strong theory has been presented that regular exercise helps to create healthy oxidants that promote positive microscopic changes in the human body.

The Take Home Message

1) Exercise to promote the positive ROS balance of oxidants in your body and; 2) antioxidants in the form of vitamins may not be all that great. Instead, maintain your balance of antioxidants with a healthy diet full of fruits and vegetables!

Time to go create some ROS!