Antioxidants and Your Health
“The amount of antioxidants that you maintain in your body is directly proportional to how long you will live.” … Dr. Richard Cutler, National Institutes of Health, Washington, DC
Antioxidants are agents that neutralize damaging free radicals in our body. Antioxidants are either water soluble or fat soluble. Water soluble antioxidants work in the blood plasma and cellular fluids to neutralize free radicals. Fat soluble antioxidants work to protect cell membranes and DNA in the cell nucleus from free radical damage. As such, they help to prevent mutation and premature aging.
Want to look younger than your years and feel younger than your peers? Up the antioxidant levels in your body with good food choices and effective supplementation.
Where do they come from?
Our body produces several enzymes that act on free radicals. Superoxide dismutase (SOD), melatonin and glutathione are the most prevalent. Minerals such as copper, iron, manganese and zinc are necessary for the formation of SOD. Mineral rich foods in our diet are important to provide the raw materials for SOD production in the cells. Mineral supplementation also helps provide the raw materials needed for SOD production by the cells. Melatonin is produced primarily in the pineal gland found in the brain. It easily crosses cell membranes and penetrates into the nucleus to protect DNA from free radical damage. Current thought is that melatonin production in the pineal gland diminishes with age. Glutathione is synthesized from amino acids by cells throughout the body. It is important that our nutrition includes clean protein sources which are then broken down into amino acids in the digestive system. Good intestinal function is necessary for the absorption and assimilation of amino acids.
Other antioxidants come from the foods we eat, primarily plant sources. Carotenes, vitamins E and C are examples. The best sources of these antioxidants are from whole foods. Overheating during cooking and the exposure to microwaves can destroy antioxidants and enzymes. The more highly processed and refined the food source the fewer nutrients and antioxidants will be present. Using concentrates or leaving out the skins, pulp or seeds can rob the food source of its full nutritional values. Eating an orange is better than drinking orange juice, for example.
Essential oils which are derived from the fluids circulating in plants have antioxidant effects. Clove essential oil is one of the highest antioxidant substances on earth.
Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) is a method developed by the National Institutes of Aging within the National Institutes of Health to determine the antioxidant values of foods.
Early findings suggest that eating plenty of high-ORAC fruits and vegetables–such as spinach and blueberries–may help slow the processes associated with aging in both body and brain.
“If these findings are borne out in further research, young and middle-aged people may be able to reduce risk of diseases of aging–including senility–simply by adding high-ORAC foods to their diets,” said ARS Administrator Floyd P. Horn.
In the studies, eating plenty of high-ORAC foods:
- Raised the antioxidant power of human blood 10 to 25 percent
- Prevented some loss of long-term memory and learning ability in middle-aged rats
- Maintained the ability of brain cells in middle-aged rats to respond to a chemical stimulus–a function that normally decreases with age
- Protected rats’ tiny blood vessels–capillaries–against oxygen damage
Nutritionist Ronald L. Prior contends, “If we can show some relationship between ORAC intake and health outcome in people, I think we may reach a point where the ORAC value will become a new standard for good antioxidant protection.”
It may be that combinations of nutrients found in foods have greater protective effects than each nutrient taken alone,” said Guohua (Howard) Cao, a physician and chemist who developed the ORAC assay.
Life has changed a lot in the past two hundred years due in large part to the industrial revolution and the dependence on fossil fuels (coal and oil) and the distillation of petroleum into gasoline, diesel fuel and the various byproducts. AIr pollution and green house gases are at their historical high points. Industrial mechanized farming and the dependence on petrochemical pesticides and fertilizers has depleted the soil of much of the mineral content.
Our bodies are under greater free radical oxidative stress than at any previous period in history. While we may be enjoying a longer life span according to government statistics, the quality of life is degrading as the cellular aging is advancing.
Adding antioxidant power to fight free radical damage is of great importance. Supplements that are easily digested, absorbed and available to the cells are preferred. NingXia Red made from the lycium barbarum wolfberry provides such support with a high concentration of water soluble antioxidants. Longevity soft gel capsules contain a blend of plant derived essential oils that provide high levels of fat soluble antioxidants.