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SOD1 Gene: Your Antioxidant Defense System

Our body has built-in antioxidants that fight against cellular stress. The superoxide dismutase (SOD1) enzyme fights against oxidative stress in your cells, constantly battling to balance out oxidants with antioxidants.

Here I’ll explain how the SOD1 enzyme works and how your genes impact oxidative stress. I’ll cover how to check your genes and the steps you can take if you have SOD1 variants. Members will see their genotype report below, plus additional solutions in the Lifehacks section. Join today 

SOD1: Superoxide Dismutase 1

The SOD1 gene codes for the copper-zinc superoxide dismutase enzyme. This cellular enzyme protects against oxidative stress by deactivating reactive oxygen species (ROS).

Three types of superoxide dismutases are part of our built-in antioxidant system:[ref]

  • SOD1, found in the cytosol or fluid in cells
  • SOD2, a mitochondrial antioxidant
  • SOD3, which is extracellular or outside of the cells

SOD1 binds copper and zinc ions together and destroys free radicals. It is an antioxidant that our body produces, which converts superoxide radicals into oxygen and hydrogen peroxide. Other enzymes then break down the hydrogen peroxide.

Balancing out oxidation reactions:

This is all about electrons here… Superoxide is two oxygen molecules bonded together but with one electron missing (O2). Normal oxygen that we breathe in the air is a stable combo of two oxygen molecules. The superoxide compound, which lacks an electron, is highly reactive, wanting to bind with another molecule to balance out its charge.

SOD1 – superoxide dismutase 1 – can counteract the superoxide produced in cellular reactions.

While we often think of antioxidants as being good and reactive oxygen species such as superoxide as being ‘bad’, ROS does play a vital role in cell signaling. Our cells need to be in balance with antioxidants and pro-oxidants.

Additionally, our immune system produces pro-oxidants such as superoxide to kill invading pathogens.

Balance is key, and SOD1 provides that balance.

Research on SOD1:

Research on the different genetic variants shows that SOD1 impacts heart disease risk, kidney disease, hearing loss, and diabetes. Oxidative stress plays a role in all of these chronic conditions, and decreased SOD1 (or too much ROS) can contribute to the development of these diseases.[ref][ref]

Oxidative stress seems to play a role in Alzheimer’s disease as well, and SOD1 variants have been studied to see if they affect the risk of Alzheimer’s. For rs2070424, the G allele offers protection against Alzheimer’s disease regardless of APOE gene status.[ref][ref] (Check your APOE genes  if you want to know more about your Alzheimer’s risk)

Overall, higher SOD activity has links to decreased mortality in women. Oddly, this statistic didn’t hold true for men.[ref]

SOD1 in ALS:

One of the first genetic mutations linked to the familial form of ALS was in the SOD1 gene. More recent research points to misfolded SOD1 proteins being present both in the hereditary type of ALS (about 10% of ALS patients) and in the sporadic type. While there is still a lot that researchers don’t know here, it looks like the SOD1 mutations cause a gain-of-function and altered folding in a way that causes a loss of motor neuron function.[ref]

SOD1 Genotype Report:

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Lifehacks for increasing SOD1:


4 natural Supplements for SOD:

Freeze-dried acai powder, in an animal model of SOD1 deficiency, shows an increase in healthy aging and reduction of oxidative damage.[ref] Freeze-dried Acai powder can be found online, and acai juice can be found in most grocery stores.

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Related Articles and Topics:

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Nrf2 Pathway: Increasing the body’s ability to get rid of toxins
The Nrf2 (Nuclear factor erythroid 2–related factor) signaling pathway regulates the expression of antioxidants and phase II detoxification enzymes. This is a fundamental pathway that is important in how well your body functions. Your genetic variants impact how well this pathway functions.

Originally published 10/2015, updated 9/2020

About the Author:
Debbie Moon is the founder of Genetic Lifehacks. Fascinated by the connections between genes, diet, and health, her goal is to help you understand how to apply genetics to your diet and lifestyle decisions. Debbie has a BS in engineering from Colorado School of Mines and an MSc in biological sciences from Clemson University. Debbie combines an engineering mindset with a biological systems approach to help you understand how genetic differences impact your optimal health.