Benefits and Uses of Antioxidants
An explanation of free radicals:
In his book, The Antioxidant Miracle, Lester Packer explains the importance of antioxidants and the antioxidant network. Antioxidants are a family of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that protect the cells of the body from damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules that are made by the body as a by-product of energy production (metabolism) and in adequate numbers can be good for the body. In this process, oxygen is used to break down the nutrients to create the necessary energy used in growth and other activities of the body. Along with metabolism, substances within our environment such as: chemicals, pollutants, smoke and radiation (both solar and electronic) trigger free radical production. In large production, free radicals can become an enemy to the body. In just about every disease known, free radicals are a causal factor. In stroke victims, superoxide free radicals are generated that attack surrounding tissues of the brain. In the case of heart disease, free radicals are made by the oxidation of low-density lipoprotein (LDL). The damage caused by the free radicals in both stroke and heart disease is after the blood circulation has been resumed to these areas. Free radical overproduction causes inflammation found in specific areas of the body (arthritis of the joints is an example). They are, however, a necessary part of the living process. Free radicals complete many critical functions within our bodies from fighting infection to keeping the brain healthy. They assist in the turning on and turning off genes through signaling molecules that start that process.
A summary of each one of the network antioxidants:
To counter the ill effects of free radicals, the body produces some of the antioxidants needed to control the free radicals. Some antioxidants are only available through the intake of food or supplements. A special grouping of these antioxidants, create the antioxidant network. This network includes five key antioxidants: vitamin C and E, Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), lipoic acid, and glutathione. Though each one of these has their own individual function, working within the group synergistically adds to their performance. We will look at each one separately.
Vitamin C is a water-soluble antioxidant. It must be obtained by food or supplementation because the body does not produce it. Vitamin C revitalizes vitamin E after it has become a free radical. After vitamin C is oxidized in the cells, it becomes antioxidant vitamin C and is returned to the blood plasma where it helps protect lipoproteins and proteins from oxidation. Vitamin C helps prevent cancer by shielding DNA from free radical damage, strengthens the immune system, and protects against cataracts. Sources of this vitamin include: citrus fruit, tomatoes, cranberries, cabbage and other fruits and vegetables.
Vitamin E consists of a group of substances called tocopherols and tocotrienols that help keep the skin protected from UV radiation and ozone. It has anti-inflammatory properties that help relieve arthritis and other inflammation diseases. Vitamin E can reduce the growth of breast cancer cells and reduce the risk associated with prostate cancer. Sources of vitamin E are nuts and nut butters, barley, rice bran and raw vegetable oils. Vitamin E is fat-soluble and can move through the fatty parts of the cell membrane. Vitamin E is a cancer fighter; it aids in the prevention of aging, and provides protection to the heart and assists with the prevention of coronary artery disease.
Coenzyme Q10, (works with protein enzymes to produce a particular reaction) is fat-soluble and regenerates vitamin E. It has been used for twenty years in Japan to treat and prevent heart disease. Co Q10 may help prevent Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. It has been used to treat gum disease and is being investigated as an advanced breast cancer treatment. The body synthesizes Co Q10; other sources are organ meats and seafoods. Co Q10 is essential in the production of energy. Co Q10 may assist in the treatment and prevention of cancers by boosting the effectiveness of the body’s T-cells. Co Q10 may rejuvenate the brain, and protect the gums.
Lipoic acid may provide protection against stroke, cataracts, and heart disease; it may strengthen memory and prevent brain aging. Lipoic acid boosts the entire antioxidant network. It turns off the bad genes that cause cancer and aging. It has been used to treat liver disease and mushroom poisoning. Lipoic acid is produced in the body and can be found in small quantities in potatoes, spinach, and red meat. Lipoic acid regenerates itself and is essential for the breakdown of sugar and its conversion into energy. Unlike the other components of the antioxidant network, lipoic acid can cross into the cell’s water and fat portions, increasing its ability to scavenge free radicals. Lipoic acid helps protect the eyes, liver and the heart and may protect against stroke. It may help control diabetes, protect against aging, aid in the immune system’s production of T-cells, enhance memory, and reduce the effects of radiation poisoning damage.
Glutathione is produced in the body and is the primary water-soluble antioxidant. It regenerates vitamin C, restoring its antioxidant capability. Glutathione is instrumental for healthy functioning of the liver and is instrumental in the detoxification of pollutants and drugs. It is important for the immune system and can reverse immunological slumps arising from age-related immune functions. It helps in the storage and transport of amino acids, the building blocks of protein. Glutathione can be found in fruits, vegetables, and cooked meat, however during the digestive processes, it is broken down. Glutathione helps protect the cells from cancer by riding the body of hydrogen peroxide and it signals molecules to turn off the inflammatory response. Glutathione attacks toxins in the liver and makes them more available to be flushed out of the body through the kidneys. It rejuvenates the immune system and acts as an anti-aging antioxidant.
A summary of each of the network boosters
Network boosters consist of non-network antioxidants and some substances that are not antioxidants. The boosters include flavonoids, selenium, and the carotenoid family.
Flavonoids are a group of phytochemicals that are found in plants. This family has over several thousand phytochemicals with fifty different common compounds being found in fruits, vegetables, and beverages. Flavonoids improve memory and concentration and are used to treat deficiency disorders. They are powerful free radical scavengers that can boost the effectiveness of vitamin C. Flavonoids regulate nitric oxide, prevent blood clots, lower high blood pressure, and protect against LDL cholesterol oxidation. These substances help improve sexual function in men, reduce inflammation, and bolster the immune system.
Selenium is a mineral and a non-antioxidant that strengthens the antioxidant network. It is a component of two antioxidant enzymes. Selenium works in synergy with vitamin E. It helps protect against many types of cancer that include: lung, colon and prostate. Selenium is not produced by the body and must be obtained through water and food sources such as: garlic, onions, red grapes, broccoli, egg yolks and wheat germ. Selenium may protect against heart disease and aid in the fight against cancer.
Carotenoids are a family of antioxidants that help by reducing the free radical load within the body. The carotenoids include: Alpha carotene, beta-carotene, cryptoxanthin, lutein, lycopene, and zeaxanthin. Lycopene has been associated with lower prostate cancer rates. Lutein and zeaxanthin have been associated with decreased risks of cataracts and macular degeneration. Beta-carotene can be effective in boosting the immune function in older people. A diet rich in carotenoids may reduce the risk of heart disease.
Compelling antioxidant research:
The importance of vitamin C has been cited in several sources: A Treatise of the Scurvy, by James Lind, 1753; Vitamin C and the Common Cold, by Dr. Linus Pauling; Cancer and Vitamin C, by Dr. Linus Pauling.
Researchers at Jean Mayer, USDA Human Nutrition Center, Tuffs University have proven that vitamin E can stimulate immune function in older people.
Researcher at the USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging found that glutathione stimulated the production of interlukin 1 and interlukin 2.
In a six-year study conducted by Dr. Edward Giovanucci, at Harvard Medical School, involving 48,000 male physicians, found that men who consumed tomatoes, tomato sauce, or pizza more than twice per week showed a 21 to 34 percent reduced risk of prostate cancer.
The basic antioxidant cocktail plan:
It is recommended that the supplements be taken at two separate times, one being in the morning and the other in the afternoon.
Morning and Evening
The vitamin E familyCo Q10
An outline of special needs and the associated recommendations by Packer for:
People at High Risk of Cancer:
People at High Risk of Cardiovascular Disease:
For information on which supplements you should consider taking and the recommended amounts identified by Packer, please contact Dr. Chandler.
Packer, Lester, PhD and Colman, Carol, (1999), The Antioxidant Miracle, United States: John Wiley and Sons, Inc.