What Antioxidants Do (the facts)
The process of oxidation, accelerates aging; it does this because it damages cells, and the more that our cells have to repair themselves, the less capable they are at doing so, leading to the aging of cells.
So, what is cell oxidation? It is mainly caused by the body being attacked by toxins. These toxins include air pollution, cigarette smoke, trans fats, toxins produced by some bacteria, and radiation including UV rays. The body also produces its own toxins during natural processes, including in the production of stress hormones.
When the toxins attack our cells, they damage them by causing molecules in the cells to lose electrons. These electron depraved molecules are called ‘free radicals’, or ‘oxidants’. Once molecules become free radicals, they go on the seek the electrons they have lost, by taking electrons from other molecules and DNA, causing a wave of f cell mutation .
Antioxidants stop free radical damage because they have electrons which they can spare for them, returning the molecule back to normal and stopping the wave of oxidation.
Apparent Benefits of Antioxidant Supplementation
Eating foods high in antioxidants is considered by some as one of the most effective anti-aging methods. Study after study has reported that antioxidants help prevent cancer and heart disease, safeguard memory, reduce the risk of degenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, reduce muscle fatigue, avert blindness caused by macular degeneration and cataracts, and slow the aging of skin cells.
Other studies though, contest the benefits of antioxidants in prolonging life, and guarding against disease. This article will show how antioxidants might be of benefit. Please also do further research, and check out opposing theories.
Different supplements have their effects in different areas/processes inside the body. Therefore, the below described supplements have their own unique benefits, so taking one, will not make up for not taking another, especially if you increase doses to compensate. What is written below is a guide, written through the research of medical studies. Of course, discuss with your doctor before taking any kind of supplement.
Vitamin C acts as the first defence against free radicals in blood and plasma. It also restores the antioxidant properties of Vitamin E.
It has anti-aging effects not only as an antioxidant, it is also needed for the production of collagen, a protein which gives your skin elasticity. Vitamin C naturally decreases its presence in the skin as we grow older. Applying vitamin C in a cream to the skin can be 20 times more effective (in skin cells) than taking it orally.
How Much: At least 90 mg per day orally. It’s quite easy to get enough of it from food sources.
Best food sources: Bell Peppers (341.3 mg per large yellow pepper), broccoli (81.2 mg per cup), Green Kiwi (64 mg per fruit).
Vitamin E it is a very powerful antioxidant, and fights heart disease, boosts immunity, and helps counteract cell damage and skin cancer formation. Along with vitamin C, it is needed for the recycling of the antioxidant, glutathione, which we will talk about later. I find it quite difficult to get the recommended daily allowance of vitamin E, you can see why when looking at the best food sources below. If you also find it difficult then you can supplement with tablets, like the ones to the right.
How Much: 15 mg per day
Best food sources: Sunflower seeds (10.3 mg per ounce), hazelnuts (4.3 mg per ounce), and peanut butter (2.9 mg per 2 tablespoons)
Carotenoids are the pigments found mainly in algae, and vegetables and fruit which are red, orange, and deep yellow in color. There are more than 700 different types carotenoids, only about a dozen of which have been studied closely. While each one has its own benefits, a combination of them, as found in a balanced diet, have proven to be more effective than any individual one by itself.
Beta-Carotene is the carotenoid that is needed to create vitamin A within the body. One of the best sources of beta-carotene is from carrots. To get 25,000IU of beta-carotene (an amount large enough to get powerful antioxidant protection), you need to eat 3 carrots per day – not really practical. It will be helpful then to take supplements of beta-carotene.
Astaxanthin! This is the most powerful carotenoid – and 65 times more powerful than vitamin C. It is gaining in its reputation fast. Astaxanthin can reach into every part of the cell, and can cross the blood-brain barrier, and the blood-retinal barrier – something most other antioxidants can’t do. It is described as being in a class of its own because it can handle many different types of free radicals simultaneously. The best food source of astaxanthin by far is Wild Pacific Salmon. To get the recommended 3.6 mg per day dose though, you need to eat 165 grams of the Salmon each day; links to supplements are to the left. Look here for more information about astaxanthin.
Find out much more information about carotenoids.
Flavonoids are responsible for the pigmentation in many fruits and vegetables, including the deep blues of blueberries and rich reds of raspberries. The flavonoid nutrient family is the largest nutrient family, with over 8,000 unique flavonoids known to scientists. The amount of flavonoids required to provide the necessary antioxidant health benefits is not certain. There are a number of subgroups of flavonoids; the ones which provide the best antioxidant benefits are flavonols and flavan-3-ols. Little is known about the function of flavonoids as antioxidants in the body, but what is known is that they provide increased antioxidant protection of red blood cells. The protection of red blood cells has been identified after the consumption of blueberries.
Blueberries contain flavan-3-ols, which is also present in strawberries, bananas, apples, pears and peaches. Flavonols are found in onions, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, and almonds. Read more about flavonoids, here.
Glutathione – “mother of all antioxidants”
The Huffington Post has called this the “mother of all antioxidants”. Your body produces its own glutathione. Although poor diet, pollution, toxins, medications, stress, trauma, aging, infections and radiation all deplete your natural levels glutathione.
The secret of its power is the sulfur chemical groups it contains. Sulfur is a sticky molecule, and acts like fly paper which toxins and free radicals stick to.
When the toxin load in the body becomes too great, the glutathione become overloaded and unable to do their job. The reason glutathione become overloaded and ineffective is because our bodies have not yet evolved to deal with the high amount of toxins we are bombarded with in modern life.
How to increase glutathione levels
It does not come in tablet form unfortunately, because glutathione is a protein and the body just digest it as such. There are simple ways you can increase your glutathione levels though by supplementing with its building blocks; these building blocks are – cysteine, glycine and glutamine. As well as having enough of these building blocks within the body, you need to be supporting the synthesis of the building block to create the glutamine. Below is a guide to the supplementation and how best to support the production and recycling of glutathione.
Glutathione Production Supplements – Because the different precursors to glutathione provide different fitness benefits, they are not best suited to be all placed within one supplement, or taken at the same time. So, I’ve found a set of supplement which I think would give the best results for both a fitness supplementation regime, and as a method of promoting glutamine production. The first link on the right is our Cysteine, it does not matter at what time this is taken (before or after exercise). The second is best used as a pre-exercise supplement, and it contains our glycine, beneficial for energy production and protects the body from oxidant damage during workouts. Finally we have our glutamine, which conveniently acts to support muscle mass, and so it is perfect to take as a post exercise recovery supplement.
For the process of synthesizing the above building blocks, into glutathione, we need sulfur. We get our sulfur from vegetables like onions, garlic, shallots, and leeks. Find out more about the benefits of sulfur here. And as mentioned above, Vitamin C + E act to recycle glutathione, by removing its overloaded electrons.
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10)
CoQ10 is found in the mitochondria of your cells (energy making cells). Most concentration is therefore found in the heart, liver, and kidneys. The body houses only between 500 – 1500 milligrams of CoQ10. Because CoQ10 is an antioxidant though, we can become easily depraved of it by poor nutrition, or during periods of ill health and oxidant damage, and even by heavy exercise. A feeling of a loss of energy is associated with a deficiency of CoQ10, as it works to maintain the health of the mitochondria. Low energy is not always accompanied by a physical feeling of weakness. One of the most energy sensitive parts of the body is the gingival tissue cells inside the gums. Low energy in the gums will leave them less able to defend against gum disease. If you get red, inflamed gums, it could be due to CoQ10 deficiency. This energy deficiency is also attributed to the onset on many other diseases, including Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease, heart disease, and cancer.
If CoQ10 is low, it is not doing its job as an antioxidant and is therefore causing our cells to age faster, specifically the heart, where CoQ10 is found in its greatest quantity.
Best food sources: CoQ10 deficiency is rare in healthy individuals who have a varied diet.
Very low levels of it though is obtained through our diet. If your diet is not constantly brilliant and varied, supplementation seems wise. I would recommend perhaps 1 or 2 tablets of 100 mg per week for a healthy person who has an awesome diet, just to make sure levels are high. Heavy exercise depletes our CoQ10 levels, so along with the awesome diet, on days of heavy exercise, take 1oo mg. If you have gum disease, take 100 mg per day, if you experience quick healing then it will give you reassurance that the supplementation is beneficial.
To the right are the recommended doses of CoQ10 supplementation. If your diet isn’t great (you struggle to get your 5 a day), then I would follow the guide. Softgel CoQ10 supplement are recommended for best absorption. Take a look at the Amazon reviews for people’s experiences, over to the left.
Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA)
ALA is a fatty acid both produced by the body and absorbed from the foods we eat. When there is just enough ALA within the body, it’s role is in our metabolism, converting carbohydrates into energy. When there is an excess of ALA within the body though, spare ALA plays a role as an antioxidant. There are also other massive health benefits of ALA – find out more, here. It is both water and fat soluble, so has wide reaching effect. It is also thought to help regenerate other antioxidants like Vitamin C, Vitamin E, and coenzyme Q10. We produce less ALA as we age, some researchers therefore believe that taking a supplement may help slow the aging process.
How Much: 300-600 mg per day (maximum)
Best food sources: Beef kidney (32 mg per 85 g), Spinach (5 mg per 30 g)
This is a weird one because melatonin’s main job in the body is to regulate night and day cycles or sleep-wake cycles. It has been reported though that melatonin also contributes to the reduction of oxidative damage in both the lipid and the aqueous environments of the cell. Studies have suggested that it possess 200% more antioxidant power than vitamin E, and is superior to glutathione and vitamins C in reducing oxidative damage.
Melatonin is naturally produced within the body, more so when we are in the dark. It has been suggested that as we age, the production of melatonin reduces: there is however no evidence of this.
There are interesting anti-aging reports about melatonin, here, but be sure to do more research before deciding on supplementation – melatonin is one of the most controversial antioxidants.
Resveratrol is a powerful antioxidant that acts to protect a cell’s DNA, and is able to cross the blood-brain barrier. Animal studies have found resveratrol to reduce insulin resistance and so reduce mortality rates in diabetes, the antioxidant effect counteracts cancer, and it has been found to lower brain plaque levels in Alzheimer’s disease. Human trials though are lacking up to now; the human benefits have not been confirmed.
How Much: Unconfirmed. Human studies of resveratrol have involved taking 250 mg per day. Because of the lack of evidence though about the benefits of resveratrol, personally I would suggest taking these 250 mg supplements only once a week, until further studies have been conducted. Or hey, just skip it all together, for now.
Best food sources: Red wine (0.2 – 2.0 mg per glass), red grape juice (0.17 – 1.3 mg per 5-ounce serving). Clearly, it’s near enough impossible to get an effective amount of resveratrol, without taking supplements.
Much More to Anti-Aging
Antioxidants are just prawns in the ocean of anti-aging methods. Our Anti-Aging Guide (Coming soon) covers a lot of the other current known methods of countering our aging. And our article The Reality of Immortality, explains how it could be possible for us to become immortal within just 30 years.
So, there is no better reason to want to follow anti-aging tips and live healthier, longer lives; you live long enough, you just might see the day that the approaching grimreaper turns around and walks away from all those who do not welcome him.
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Disclaimer: Any health advice provided on this website is not intended to replace the advice of other individuals, and has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration or any other government agency for their approval in the diagnosis, treatment, cure or prevention of any disease.