Your body constantly reacts with oxygen as you breathe and your cells produce energy. As a consequence of this activity, highly reactive molecules are produced within our cells known as free radicals. If your body is unable to stop the spiraling free radical chain reaction (a molecule stealing an electron from another molecule, causing that molecule to steal an electron from another molecule, causing that molecule to steal an electron, etc...) this can cause oxidative damage to proteins, membranes and genes.
Bombardment of cells by free radicals.
When oxidation is excessive and the body is unable to neutralize high levels of free radicals with enough antioxidants, we refer to this as oxidative stress. The deeper the body goes into oxidative stress the more extensive will be the cellular damage that will then trigger an inflammatory response. Free radical damage, oxidative stress and systemic inflammation are all implicated in a number of chronic degenerative disease states and premature aging.
If oxidative stress continues for days, weeks or months, the body can go into a condition called chronic systemic low-grade inflammation. This type of inflammation can stimulate aggressive osteoclastic bone resorption and lead to osteoporosis.
Unfortunately, there is no one test that will tell us if a person has this type of inflammation. But there are tests for general inflammation and others for oxidative stress which, when reviewed in conjunction with the person's signs and symptoms, can give us a good indication of whether that individual has chronic systemic inflammation.
A recent paper by Park et al. in Clinical Endocrinolgy shows that C-reactive protein (CRP), a protein in the blood that rises in response to inflammation, is also a measurement of oxidative stress. The study involved 1821 nondiabetic postmenopausal women with elevated CRP (≤ 10 mg/l) levels. The researchers used an oxidized low-density lipoprotein, a known marker of oxidative stress, to compare with CRP. The authors concluded that CRP is strongly associated with oxidative stress.
Oxidative stress and its impacts can be alleviated with early detection. Having lab markers such as C-reactive protein to provide important clues to the causes of bone loss is of great benefit to a clinician designing a diet/nutrition therapeutic protocol for chronic disease conditions such as osteoporosis.
Park, S. et al. 2013. Oxidative stress is associated with C-reactive protein in nondiabetic postmenopausal women, independent of obesity and insulin resistance. Clinical Endocrinology 79, 65-70.