Antioxidants Vs Free Radicals
by Lorrie Wren
able to take an electron from other molecules. When these electrons are stolen from
healthy body cells, damage is caused to the cells resulting in inability of the cell to
absorb necessary nutrients or fight disease, cell mutations, and creation of even
more free radicals. When the production of free radicals continues unchecked and
unbalanced, the damage caused plays a leading part in the premature aging process,
and in most chronic illnesses, including cancer and cardiovascular disease.
Antioxidants are particular nutrients, enzymes, minerals, herbs and phytochemicals
that are able chemically stabilize the free radical to render it ineffective.
Dietary antioxidants such as vitamins A, C and E, plus the mineral selenium have
been known for quite a few years, but more recently phytonutrients and
phytochemicals have come under study. These groups are found in plants and include
flavonoids, isoflavones, carotenoids and PCOs (procyaniodolic oligomers) and are
thought to be about 50 times more powerful than the antioxidant vitamins. Research
is also showing that antioxidant combinations are more beneficial than each one
These phytochemicals are pigments found mainly in algae, plants and photosynthetic
bacteria, and are the reason for various shades of reds, yellows, greens and oranges
in vegetables, fruits and flowers. The strongest carotenoids known are
Beta-carotene, Lutein and Lycopene.
Beta-carotene, used by the liver to make vitamin A, is plentiful in the dark green, red
and yellow vegetables like carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin and broccoli. Animal
sources include organ meats, eggs and fish. Beta-carotene is only converted to
vitamin A as needed by the body, so does not have the toxicity danger of excessive
levels of vitamin A from supplementation.
Lutein, also found in dark green leafy vegetables, broccoli, egg yolks, oranges and
peaches, is beneficial for eyes. Statistics show diets high in Lutein are connected with
lower rates of cataracts and macular degeneration, major causes of blindness in the
Lycopene seems to protect against abnormal cell proliferation and is found in
substantial levels in the prostate gland. It has been found that men with the highest
levels of Lycopene in their blood have the lowest rate of prostate cancer. Its
antioxidant effect is 2 to 3 times greater than Beta carotene and is garnering great
interest due to apparent anticarcinogenic properties. For some reason, the
concentration of Lycopene is higher in tomato juice and sauces than in fresh
Coenzyme Q10, or ubiquinone, is comparable in structure to vitamin E and has
proven benefits for the heart and cardiovascular system. There are also indications
that it slows the spread of cancer and aging. Organ meats, beef, salmon, sardines,
soy oil, spinach, avocados and peanuts are all rich in coenzyme Q10.
Glutathione is a protein manufactured in the liver that is necessary for a good
immune system. It neutralizes the hydroxyl radicals, which are thought to be the
most dangerous of all the free radicals, and is the most capable antioxidant for
working within individual cells. It is also useful for detoxifying heavy metals and other
poisons, and may target carcinogens for destroying. Glutiathone levels tend to
decrease as people age, so it is important to maintain adequate dietary intake.
Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cabbage and kale contain glutiathone.
Selenium is a trace mineral used by the body to manufacture the enzyme glutiathone
peroxidase. It works with vitamin E to protect cell membranes, maintain helathe liver
and heart and helps with antibody production. There has been significantly fewer
cases of cancer in people who took selenium supplements, particularly prostate
cancer. It is toxic in high levels, however, and daily intake should not exceed 800
micrograms. Pregnant women should keep below 40 micrograms. Brazil nuts,
seafood, liver, kelp, garlic and wheat germ are a few foods containing selenium.
North American soils tend to be depleted in selenium so plant foods grown in our
soils may still be low in this nutrient.
Superoxide dismutase (SOD) works with catalase to neutralize hydrogen peroxide
and superoxide radicals, and to aid the body in handling metals like copper, zinc and
manganese. It is plentiful in most green plants, wheatgrass, barleygrass, and broccoli.
This is a short summary of some of the major newly found antioxidants undergoing
much research currently, but there are many other antioxidants beneficial to our
health that are not covered in this article. Some herbs and berries like green tea,
white tea, blueberries, acai berries, raspberries and garlic have also been discovered
to be sources of extremely high levels of antioxidants, effective for protecting against
disease and aging. Antioxidant tablets can also be very useful for boosting levels, so
long as toxicity levels are considered. Ensuring we have adequate antioxidant intake
may make the difference between a long slide into disease and disability, and
excellent health into our golden years.
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Antioxidants are best known for their
ability to prevent disease and aging
by counteracting the effects of free
radicals on the body, but what are
they and how do they work? What
are the free radicals that cause the
damage? Let's take a look at how
this all fits together.
When body cells utilize fuel (foods we
eat), they also utilize oxygen,
sometimes during which process
incomplete molecules are created.
These incomplete molecules (free
radicals) have an unpaired electron,
making them chemically unstable and
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