Life Extension Magazine®

Scientist studying effects of aronia berry antioxidants on oxidative stress

Boost Internal Antioxidant Defenses

Oxidative stress damages cells and accelerates certain aging processes. Two botanicals increase cellular levels of superoxide dismutase (SOD) to boost the body’s internal oxidant defense system.

Scientifically reviewed by: Dr. Crystal M. Gossard, DCN, CNS, LDN, in August 2023. Written by: Leslie Hunter.

Antioxidants fight oxidative damage caused by free radicals, which contributes to degenerative aging.1-3

But not all antioxidants are the same.

The kinds most people know about are found in fruits, vegetables, and other external sources.

But our bodies also produce their own internal antioxidants.

One of the most important of these antioxidants is an enzyme called superoxide dismutase (SOD).

SOD levels in cells drop as we age. This leads to more oxidative tissue damage.4

Scientists have discovered that aronia berry extract and a melon concentrate can stimulate SOD production, offering a new way to bolster antioxidant defenses.

Oxidative Stress

Free radicals are unstable molecules with an unpaired electron. This instability leads them to steal electrons from other molecules that inflict damage to delicate cellular structures.

That damage, known as oxidative stress, can be outwardly felt when recovering from an alcoholic hangover. Metabolites of alcohol (such as acetaldehyde) inflict cellular damage that one can outwardly feel.

Internally, oxidative stress contributes to degradation of the body’s proteins while body fat is converted to forms that contribute to chronic inflammation.5-8

Over time, this accumulated damage accelerates pathological aging.9

Free-Radical Formation

woman taking vitamin

Free radicals are inevitable facts of life.

Various outside factors can contribute to increased free-radical formation in the body—pollutants, toxins, some drugs, cigarette smoke, radiation, and more.1-3

But even if we are careful to avoid unhealthy external factors, free radicals still form from within.

Inflammation, infection, and stress contribute to free-radical formation. Even normal, healthy processes, such as the metabolism of nutrients to make energy, create free radicals.

With age, defenses against the damaging effects of free radicals sharply decline.1,10

How Antioxidants Help

Nature has provided a way to counter the danger of free radicals— antioxidants.9

These compounds got their name because they fight against oxidative stress. They find free radicals and neutralize them.

When cells have antioxidant defenses in place, they sustain less degenerative damage.

Two Types of Antioxidants

There are two general types of antioxidants.11,12

Endogenous antioxidants are formed within the body.

These include superoxide dismutase (SOD), glutathione peroxidase, catalase, and glutathione.

Exogenous antioxidants are formed outside the body but can be absorbed and used by our cells if we consume them orally.

Examples include vitamins C and E, carotenoids, flavonoids, polyphenols and other plant extracts.

Although cells make their own endogenous anti-oxidants, external antioxidants confer additional protection.11,12

What few people understand is that endogenous antioxidants (like SOD) are the first line of defense, particularly against the free radicals that are formed within our cells due to everyday, normal metabolic processes.

The Importance of Superoxide Dismutase

One of the strongest endogenous antioxidants is the enzyme SOD.

A common free radical is produced in each cell’s energy-producing mitochondria. Known as super-oxide, this compound is very unstable, meaning it seeks to grab electrons from other molecules, creating pathological havoc.

While normal oxygen is harmless, superoxide reacts aggressively with other molecules and can permanently damage them.

Superoxide dismutase is expressly designed to recognize superoxide radicals and convert them into water and hydrogen peroxide before they can do damage.

Other enzymes convert the hydrogen peroxide into water and oxygen. 13

Superoxide dismutase is found throughout the body. It’s in the main compartment of every cell, in the mitochondria, and in the spaces between cells.

When superoxide dismutase levels are adequate, they offer remarkably powerful protection against free radicals and oxidative damage.

SOD Declines with Age

Activity of superoxide dismutase dwindles with age.

Researchers measured SOD levels in individuals ranging in age from infancy to 69 years old.4

They found that after age 40, levels of SOD declined.

This study showed that after age 40, SOD levels were on average about 20% lower than those of a 25 to 40-year-old.

Boosting SOD Levels

Scientists have found a way to reverse the loss of SOD, thereby increasing levels in the body.

This suggests that we can protect against oxidative damage at an early stage, potentially helping to slow degenerative aging processes.

Superoxide dismutase levels in the body can be increased in two ways:

  1. Some nutrients help stimulate the body’s own production of SOD.
  2. An external SOD can be consumed orally to further increase bodily levels.

Aronia Berry Stimulates SOD Production

Aronia berry

Aronia berries are a potent source of anthocyanins, health-promoting pigments.14

These anthocyanins themselves are antioxidants, helping to neutralize free radicals.14

Aronia berries also have another important property: They have been shown to activate the protein Nrf2, a key regulator of antioxidant response in cells.15

This ability of aronia berry to boost SOD has been shown in a human study.

The trial enrolled patients with metabolic syndrome, who had lower SOD levels at the beginning of the study than the healthy controls.16 Subjects were given 300 mg of aronia berry extract daily.

After two months, SOD levels in the body increased by 29%.

These subjects also benefited from a 52% increase in glutathione peroxidase, another important “internal” antioxidant.

What you need to know

Help Fight Oxidative Stress

  • There’s no way to stop free radicals from being produced. Even our own metabolism leads to the creation of these harmful compounds, which cause oxidative stress, a major source of aging and disease.
  • Superoxide dismutase (SOD) is an antioxidant produced in the body that defends against oxidative stress, particularly against superoxide, the dangerous free radical.
  • Levels of SOD drop over time, increasing our vulnerability to more rapid aging and risk for disease.
  • Taking aronia berry extract has been shown to boost the body’s production of SOD.
  • A unique melon concentrate provides SOD directly.
  • Together, these two extracts provide powerful protection against free-radical damage.

An Outside Source of SOD

Researchers have identified a melon extract high in SOD.

Animal studies have shown that taking this concentrated melon extract orally increases SOD levels in body tissues.17,18 In piglets, it led to an almost 37.5% increase in SOD activity in only 12 days.18

Two trials tested the effects of the SOD-rich melon extract in people who felt daily stress and fatigue.19,20 These unhappy feelings can be associated with cellular oxidative stress.21,22

In both trials, participants took the melon extract or a placebo and were put through a battery of tests to assess their quality of life, stress, and fatigue.

In those who took the melon extract, perceived stress scores dropped by 31% and quality-of-life scores improved by 42%, compared to baseline.20 Mental fatigue was reduced by 21% and physical fatigue fell by 9%, when compared to controls.19

Together with aronia berry extract, this concentrated melon extract provides fuel to boost systemic SOD levels, protecting against the damage caused by oxidative stress.


Oxidative stress caused by free radicals is a source of cellular damage. It contributes to degenerative aging processes.

Antioxidants neutralize free radicals, thus mitigating the harm they inflict.

One of the most important endogenous antioxidants is the enzyme superoxide dismutase (SOD).

Its levels drop with age. But scientists have found that aronia berry extract and a melon concentrate extract can boost SOD levels.

Aronia berry stimulates the body’s own production of superoxide dismutase and other antioxidants. Melon concentrate increases cellular SOD activity directly.

If you have any questions on the scientific content of this article, please call a Life Extension® Wellness Specialist at 1-866-864-3027.


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