Fifth module: Unconjugated vs conjugated bilirubin, and the signifigance of antioxidant power of the bilverdin-bilirubin cycle
Learn how bilirubin metabolism works, the limitations of bilirubin testing, and why jaundice is Nature's answer to stress and adverse conditions
It turns out, bilirubin is a powerful antioxidant! Our adult bodies, and our babies' bodies, use bilirubin to counter oxidative stress. In that context, bilirubin is more powerful than alpha-tocopherol (alpha-tocopherol is usually thought of as the most effective lipid-soluble antioxidant in the human species). Bilirubin is also thought to work in partnership with glutathione, another powerful antioxidant the body makes1.
When a baby is undergoing cellular stress (which all babies do thanks to the transition from placenta-supported womb-life to breathing oxygen-rich air), it makes sense for the baby’s body to make use of bilirubin. Bilirubin is readily available from the breakdown of blood cells (which all babies have to do), and the bilirubin cleans up some of that oxidative stress on it’s way out.
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