Social isolation and oxidative stress; and ginseng

Social isolation may worsen the effects of oxidative stress [1] and has been associated with worsening of schizophrenia symptoms. [3]

An animal based study found that 6-8 weeks of social isolation led to oxidative damage in the brain and an active phytochemical extract from Vietnamese ginseng called majonoside-R2 helped reduce the effect. A fairly large dose of the extract was used if considering typical amounts of herbal supplements (10—50 mg/kg) and it was given as an intraperitoneal (into the main body cavity of the abdomen) injection which is primarily a method used in animal research and therefore wouldn’t be directly applicable to humans. [1]  A one hundred and fifty pound human would weigh slightly less than seventy kilograms and so a comparable amount would be 700-3500 mg. A 700 mg supplement would be a large capsule, while 3500 mg would be closer to a half teaspoonful of a powder. And this study used an extract of the ginseng, not a dose of the whole ginseng root – however it was found effective at reducing oxidative stress damage by modulating nitric oxide 9a free radical) and glutathione  (an antioxidant, [2]) systems in the brain.

A song has been found by neuroscience research to help reduce anxiety significantly. It is potentially so relaxing however that it is not recommended to listen to while driving. [4]  The audio help for reducing anxiety may be acting to reduce oxidative stress – potentially that may be how it helps reduce feelings of anxiety, or maybe it is encouraging a slower deeper breathing rate, diaphragmatic breathing and oxidative stress.

There is more on the topic of social isolation and health effects but I’m posting this brief introduction.

  • Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and the information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes.
  1. Huong NT, Murakami Y, Tohda M, Watanabe H, Matsumoto K. Social isolation stress-induced oxidative damage in mouse brain and its modulation by majonoside-R2, a Vietnamese ginseng saponin. Biol Pharm Bull. 2005 Aug;28(8):1389-93.
  2. Chad Kerksick and Darryn Willoughby, The Antioxidant Role of Glutathione and N-Acetyl-Cysteine Supplements and Exercise-Induced Oxidative Stress, J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2005; 2(2): 38–44.

  3. Zhihong Jiang, Gregory R. Rompala, Shuqin Zhang, Rita M. Cowell, and Kazu Nakazawa, Social Isolation Exacerbates Schizophrenia-like Phenotypes via Oxidative Stress in Cortical Interneurons, Biol Psychiatry. 2013 May 15; 73(10): 1024–1034.
  4. Neuroscientists Discover a Song That Reduces Anxiety by 65 Percent,, Nov. 28, 2017

  5. Daniele Martarelli, Mario Cocchioni, Stefania Scuri, and Pierluigi Pompei, Diaphragmatic Breathing Reduces Exercise-Induced Oxidative Stress, Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2011; 2011: 932430.

Oxidative stress and aging; trace minerals and antioxidants

For a more detailed review of the current understanding of how oxidative stress and inflammation are involved in the aging process see this chapter from a longer book: Oxidative Stress and the Aging Brain: From Theory to Prevention, [1]

Mitochondria are the main energy producers in cells. They are involved in breaking down each molecule of glucose (one half of the larger molecule that is commonly known as sugar). During the process of breaking the chemical bonds found in the glucose molecule the free radicals that can cause oxidative damage are produced. When adequate antioxidants are available the free radicals are stabilized before they can cause damage. The body’s internally produced antioxidant enzymes also require the trace minerals copper, zinc and manganese. /Separate topic: An imbalance in copper and zinc can cause health problems./

“Free radicals are chemical species with a single unpaired electron. The unpaired electron is highly reactive as it seeks to pair with another free electron; this results in the production of another free radical. The newly produced free radical is unstable in most cases and, as a result, it can also react with another molecule to produce yet another free radical. Thus, a chain reaction of free radicals can occur, leading to more and more damaging reactions.” [1]

“Several antioxidant defense mechanisms have evolved to protect cell components from the attack of oxidative stress and associated oxidative damage. These mechanisms include antioxidant enzymes, such as SOD, superoxide reductases, catalase, glutathione peroxidases (Gpx), and many heat-shock proteins.” “SOD exists in two forms: Cu/ZnSOD is present primarily in the cytoplasm while MnSOD is present primarily in the mitochondria.” [1]

More information about manganese superoxide dismutase (MnSOD) and how mitochondria function is available here: MnSOD in Oxidative Stress Response-Potential Regulation viaMitochondrial Protein Influx [2]

Supplementing the diet with a manganese and other trace minerals may be helpful as manganese and other trace minerals may be chelated by glyphosate, the active ingredient of the herbicide RoundUp. Chelation is a chemical term for the tendency for one chemical to bind with another – take hold and make the other one less freely available in the environment. The process can be helpful in some situations as it can act as a carrier, a taxi cab so to speak, but at other times it is simply removing the other chemical from being available for other uses.

Plant scientists are aware of the problem and there are agricultural suggestions for reducing the negative effects of manganese chelation by glyphosate in the following article: What About Glyphosate-Induced Manganese Deficiency? The effects of glyphosate’s chelation of iron, copper and zinc is also included in addition to the discussion of manganese. [3] The summary of plant yield research found that improved crop yields were produced when manganese, copper and zinc were applied as a supplemental fertilizer a certain amount of time after the glyphosate containing herbicide was applied to the fields:

“The greatest soybean yield response on high organic soils
was with both Mn and Cu applied 8 to 12 days after the glyphosate.
The highest yields for corn were obtained by foliar-applying Zn 15
days after glyphosate was applied in northwestern Indiana,” [3]

So if plant health scientists recommend supplementing with manganese, copper and zinc for best plant health do human health scientists? Some do, but the topic is still considered alternative medicine rather than being a mainstream medical recommendation. [4] Risks of increased toxicity from trace metals that have negative health effects such as aluminum. [4]

Antioxidant rich foods or supplements that were discussed in the chapter on Oxidative Stress and Aging include vitamin E, which had positive results when used as a supplement in animal studies and mixed results in studies with humans, addition of whole foods such as nuts which are a good source of vitamin E and other nutrients had more consistent positive results in human clinical research studies; Green Tea and its active metabolite EGCG; blueberries, spinach and spirulina, a blue-green algae. [1]

  • Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and the information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes.
  1. Carmelina Gemma, Jennifer Vila, Adam Bachstetter, and Paula C. Bickford, Chapter 15: Oxidative Stress and the Aging Brain: From Theory to Prevention, from Brain Aging: Models, Methods, and Mechanisms. Riddle DR, editor. Boca Raton (FL): CRC Press/Taylor & Francis; 2007.
  2. Demet Candas and Jian Jian Li, MnSOD in Oxidative Stress Response-Potential Regulation viaMitochondrial Protein Influx, Antioxid Redox Signal. 2014 Apr 1; 20(10): 1599–1617.
  3. Don M. Huber, What About Glyphosate-Induced Manganese Deficiency?, Fluid Journal, Fall 2007,
  4. Anthony Samsel and Stephanie Seneff, Glyphosate, pathways to modern diseases III: Manganese, neurological diseases, and associated pathologies, Surg Neurol Int. 2015; 6: 45.

Autoimmune Trivia – clothing choices for health

I have a new ugly sunhat and it gets just as many funny looks as the last ugly sunhat – sometimes there is no winning solution if you are unhealthy except to do what you have to do to stay healthy. I thought the new hat was slightly less odd as it’s a straw hat, summery, but oh well. I need a broad brim for sun protection. Cute hats don’t always have a brim or a large floppy beach hat has too much brim and can obstruct your ability to see.

Due to a tendency to develop severe rashes or eczema I need natural fibers. Modern fabrics can leave me itching and as my autoimmune disease has worsened I’ve even had problems with rashes that lead to a lack of skin – an open sore over a large patch is painful more than itchy. Fashion may be fun but not as much fun as having skin. Sewing my own clothes allows my own fabric choices. Hunting through resale shops for natural fiber clothing can be another way to find items that don’t make me sick. Organically grown cotton products are available in limited styles and limited places for a price that is generally more than a department store price but probably less than an expensive fashionable brand.

Laundry detergents or fabric softeners can also leave me with an allergic reaction. Having overactive white blood cells means the allergic and autoimmune sensitivities are more likely to occur – there is one bonus, cancer cells may be more likely to be identified and removed. Until it is a severe condition someone with autoimmune disease may be less likely to have cancer due to the overactive white blood cells. Increased inflammation in a patient and those with “dermatomyositis,” type of infllammatory autoimmune disease were more associated with cancer risk than some other types of arthritis like autoimmune diseases, “systemic autoimmune rheumatic diseases (SARDs), in a large study.” [3] Someone with autoimmune disease can be at greater risk of developing another type of autoimmune disease however. [1]

Adequate treatment of hypothyroidism might have an additional benefit of reducing risk of demyelination and development of Multiple sclerosis. [1]

“For example, an intriguing finding based on a rodent model of chronic demyelination indicates that administration of thyroid hormone can enhance remyelination under certain conditions (3132). Relevance of this finding to multiple sclerosis in humans is unknown, but, hypothetically, routine treatment of hypothyroidism could diminish the risk of multiple sclerosis.” [1]

The sunhat is helping reduce inflammatory reactions that can make underlying autoimmune symptoms worse. Oxidative stress is another way to say inflammatory reactions and a variety of things in addition to excessive sun exposure can lead to oxidative stress and increased production of free radicals – a type of reactive chemical which antioxidant foods helps to detoxify safely rather than allowing an increase in negative health symptoms. Pollution and smoking can also be external factors in addition to excess sun exposure which can be a cause of inflammatory oxidative stress. [2]

Eating adequate but not necessarily excessive amounts of antioxidant rich foods can help the body detoxify the free radical chemicals safely. Excessive supplements or very rich food sources of antioxidants can tip the chemical balance too far in the other direction. Studies with supplements of vitamin E and vitamin A found that some is good but more isn’t. Sesame seeds are a good source of a variety of nutrients and have been tested for helping with the oxidative stress caused by athletic exercise, two tablespoons per day were found to be a helpful and safe amount. See: Effects of Sesame (Sesamum indicum L.) Supplementation on Creatine Kinase, Lactate Dehydrogenase, Oxidative Stress Markers, and Aerobic Capacity in Semi-Professional Soccer Players. [4(G3.8)]

More information antioxidant rich foods and on oxidative stress and who is more at risk of having inflammatory oxidative stress reactions is available in this post on my other blog site:

  • Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and the information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes.
  1. Emily C. Somers Sara L. Thomas Liam Smeeth Andrew J. Hall, 

    Are Individuals With an Autoimmune Disease at Higher Risk of a Second Autoimmune Disorder?, American Journal of Epidemiology, Volume 169, Issue 6, 15 March 2009, Pages 749–755

  2. Anu Rahal,  Amit Kumar,  Vivek Singh,  Brijesh Yadav,  Ruchi Tiwari,  Sandip Chakraborty,  and Kuldeep Dhama, Oxidative Stress, Prooxidants, and Antioxidants: The Interplay, Biomed Res Int. 2014; 2014: 761264.
  3. Kuang-Hui Yu, MD, Chang-Fu Kuo, MD, PhD, Lu Hsiang Huang, MSc, Wen-Kuan Huang, MD, and Lai-Chu See, PhD, Cancer Risk in Patients With Inflammatory Systemic Autoimmune Rheumatic Diseases, Medicine (Baltimore). 2016 May; 95(18): e3540

  4. 8. Barbosa CV, Silva AS, de Oliveira CV, et al., Effects of Sesame (Sesamum indicum L.) Supplementation on Creatine Kinase, Lactate Dehydrogenase, Oxidative Stress Markers, and Aerobic Capacity in Semi-Professional Soccer Players. Front Physiol. 2017 Mar 31;8:196.  (G.8)