Antioxidants and Your Health
Antioxidants and Your Health
Free radicals are atoms or groups of atoms that can cause damage to cells in the body. This damage can impair our immune systems, and may lead to infections and various degenerative diseases such as heart disease or cancer. Much of this damage is believed to be the result of reactions between free radicals, and DNA.
The most common free radicals found in our bodies are the oxygen-derived free-radicals, like hydroxyl radicals, hypochlorite radicals, superoxide radicals, hydrogen peroxide, various lipid peroxides, and nitric oxide. These free-radicals can be formed from exposure to radiation (including the suns rays), toxic chemicals, like those found in air pollution, industrial waste, household chemicals, and cigarettes; and certain metabolic processes, like the process of burning fat molecules for use as energy.
are natural compounds that help guard our bodies from harmful free radical damage. There are a number of phytochemicals and nutrients that act as antioxidants, including, but not limited to vitamin A, beta-carotene and other carotenoids, flavonoids, vitamins C and E, and the mineral selenium, the hormone melatonin (a powerful free-radical neutralizer), and various herbs.
The most common antioxidants are:
- Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA) - Because Alpha Lipoic Acid is soluble in both water and fat, it can move into all parts of the cells to neutralize free radicals. It is a powerful antioxidant when taken alone but is also known as a "recycler" of vitamin C and vitamin E. It can restore the oxidative properties of both these vitamins after they have neutralized free radicals.
- Bilberry - The herb bilberry contains natural antioxidants that help protect and maintain the flexibility of red blood cell walls, allowing them to pass through capillaries more freely. Bilberry contains anthocyanidins. Anthocyanidins are phytochemicals that help lower blood pressure, inhibit formation of clots, and enhance the blood supply to the nervous system.
- Burdock - A powerful antioxidant capable of scavenging hydrogen peroxide and superoxide radicals. Burdock and Vitamin E neutralize more free radicals when used together in combination.
- Vitamin A & Carotenoids - Carotenoids are fat soluble pigments found in yellow, green, and orange fruits and vegetables. These carotenoids are a potent group of antioxidants that include alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein, and zeaxanthin May reduce oxidative and other damage to DNA.
- Coenzyme Q10 - An antioxidant that is structurally similar to Vitamin E. Coenzyme Q-10 plays a significant role in the creation of cellular energy, it is a significant immunologic stimulant, and is beneficial for heart health.
- Curcumin (Turmeric) - This phytochemical has antioxidant properties that prevent the formation of free radicals, as well as neutralizing existing free radicals. Curcumin blocks the oxidation of cholesterol, protecting against the formation of plaque in the arteries.
- Flavonoids - Chemical compounds that plants produce to protect themselves against parasites, bacteria, and cell injury. Flavonoids protect the antioxidant vitamins from oxidative damage.
- Garlic - A potent healing herb that also has antioxidant properties. The sulfhydryl compounds in garlic are potent chelators of toxic heavy metals, binding with them so they can be released in stool. Sulfhydryl compounds effectively guard against oxidation and free radicals. Helps prevent fats from being oxidized and deposited in arteries and tissue.
- Ginkgo Biloba - Well known for its ability to enhance circulation, ginkgo biloba is also has strong antioxidant effects in the retina, brain, and cardiovascular system.
- Glutathione - A protein produced in the liver from the amino acids cysteine, glutamic acid, and glycine. Glutathione inhibits the creation of, and formation of cellular damage from free radicals through its potent antioxidant effects. Can help the body guard itself from damage caused by exposure to radiation, smoking, and toxins such as alcohol and air pollution.
- Grape Seed Extract - OPC's are highly present in Grape Seed Extract. OPC's are flavonoids with powerful antioxidant abilities. The body is able to rapidly absorb the OPC's in in Grape Seed Extract because the OPC's present are highly soluble in water. Some clinical trials have shown OPC's to be as much as fifty times more potent than vitamin E and twenty times more effective than vitamin C in terms of biovailable antioxidant activity.
- Green Tea - Contains compounds called polyphenols, including phytochemicals that have strong antioxidant, antibacterial, and antiviral properties. EGCG, which is present in Green Tea extract, is a particular type of polyphenol capable of penetrating the bodies cells to shield DNA from hydrogen peroxide, a harmful free radical.
- Melatonin - A highly efficient free-radical scavenger and singlet oxygen quencher. While many antioxidants only work in certain locations of certain cells, Melatonin can penetrate any cell in any part of the body. Melatonin is one of the few antioxidants that can cross into the mitochondria, often referred to as the "power plant" of cells. It appears to protect mitochondria from free radical damage. Melatonin can help regulate the bodies immune system, and protect against degenerative diseases.
- Methionine - A neutralizer of one of the most dangerous types of free radicals, hydroxyl radicals. Hydroxyl free radicals can be formed from strenuous physical exercise or exposure to excessive levels of radiation, and can damage any type of body tissue.
- N-Acetylcysteine (NAC) - A sulfur containing amino acid cysteine is needed to produce the free radical scavenger glutathione and to help maintain it at adequate levels in the cells. N-acetylcysteine is a more stable version of cysteine that can be taken in supplemental form. NAC is used by the liver to detoxify chemicals, poisons, and toxins. N-Acetylcysteine powerfully detoxifies alcohol, tobacco smoke, and industrial pollutants, all of which suppress our bodies immune systems. NAC can boost protective enzyme levels in the body, therefore slowing cellular damage. People with diabetes should not take supplemental NAC without consulting a physician or health care provider.
- Nicotinamide Adenine Dinucleotide (NADH) - The "spark" that ignites energy production in our bodies cells. NADH plays a vital role in DNA repair and maintenance, and in the cellular immune defense system.
- Pine Bark Extract - Highly concentrated with OPC's (Oligomeric Proanthocyanidins), which can protect the brain and and spinal nerves against free radical damage, OPC's also have an interesting ability to strengthen and repair connective tissue, including that of the cardiovascular system; Pine bark can support the immune system and slow ageing.
- Selenium - An essential trace mineral functioning as an antioxidant in partnership with Vitamin E to protect tissue and cell membranes. Selenium reportedly increases antioxidant enzyme levels in cells. The maximum safe dose for supplemental Selenium is 400 micrograms daily, while anything higher than 1,000 micrograms daily may be toxic.
- Silymarin - Traditionally used for centuries to treat liver disease. Silymarin can be found from the seeds of the herb Milk Thistle. Included in Milk Thistle are several types of flavonoids, which have powerful antioxidant capabilities, and protect against oxidative damage. Silymarin guards the liver from the damaging effects of toxins, drugs, and alcohol.
- Superoxide Dismutase (SOD) - An enzyme with strong antioxidant properties. SOD reduces the rate of cell destruction, and revitalizes existing cells. It protects against the most common, and possibly the most dangerous free radicals, superoxide radicals. Superoxide Dismutase aids in the body's utilization of copper, manganese, and zinc.
- Vitamin C - An extremely powerful antioxidant that recharges other antioxidants, like vitamin E, to increase their potency. Due to Vitamin C's high water solubility, it is excellent at scavenging free radicals in the body's fluids. Vitamin C may be the bodies first line of antioxidant defense in plasma against many different kinds of harmful free radicals. The cells of the brain and spinal cord can be protected by significant amounts of Vitamin C.
- Vitamin E - A vitamin and powerful antioxidant that prevents the oxidation of lipids (fats). Vitamin E is fat soluble, and since cell membranes are composed of fats, it effectively prevents the cells' protective coatings from becoming damaged through the assault of free radicals. Vitamin E can also improve oxygen utilization, and enhances immune response.
- Zinc - A constituent of the antioxidant enzyme superoxide dismutase (SOD). Zinc's main antioxidant function is in the prevention of fat oxidation. Zinc is also needed for proper maintenance of Vitamin E levels in the blood.
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