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Arm Yourself Against Free Radical Attack
When an apple is cut in half, it turns brown as a result of a process known as oxidation. Our bodies undergo a similar process akin to rusting as a result of oxidation by villains known as 'free radicals'.
Free radicals are highly reactive compounds produced during our normal metabolic processes. They are a major cause of aging. Free-radical tissue damage results in coronary heart disease, brain damage, cancer and many chronic degenerative disorders. Free radicals are increased by cigarette smoke, environment pollution, ultraviolet light, ionizing radiation, strenuous exercise and certain prescription medications. Free radicals damage cell membranes, paving the way, for example, for the onset of arthritis. They can also damage enzymes and genetic material of cells, leading to cancer, says Dr. Geraldine Mitton in her Anti-Ageing Handbook.
The body has a multilevel defense system to fight free radicals. This includes various enzymes that rely on the synergistic activity of antioxidant vitamins and minerals to activate them.
To ensure that you have an army of antioxidant warriors, you need to consume a variety of dietary antioxidants, as well as supplementing especially when you may be experiencing an excessive load of free radicals.
We are all familiar with the antioxidants vitamin A, beta-carotene, vitamins C and E. However, there are many other antioxidants in fruit and vegetables, and they all combat free radical attack. Some of the most useful are the flavonoids (found in citrus, sweet peppers and other vegetables) and lycopene (found in tomatoes). Recent research has also succeeded in identifying several other age-defining antioxidants:
Chemists took wine apart years ago to find out what makes it tick. Basically, it contains a host of plant compounds. Unfortunately, resveratrol and some of the other beneficial components got shelved as "toxicants," and nobody paid much attention to them until a scientist tried to figure out why the French, especially those in the South of France, eat inexcusable amounts of heart-stopping, artery-clogging saturated fats, smoke Gauloise cigarettes and exercise very little, yet have one of the lowest heart attack rates in the world.
It has been suggested that regular consumption of red wine may explain this phenomenon, which has been dubbed the "French paradox". The secret appears to be the grapes from which the wine is made. The grape seed contains proanthocyanidins, the flesh of the grape contains vitamin C, and the skin of red grapes contains resveratrol, which has anticancer, anti-inflammatory and strong antioxidant properties.
You may take resveratrol in supplement form, or you may enjoy eating red grapes and drinking wine (in moderation, of course). Long distance travelers may take resveratrol one hour before and every four hours during a flight or car journey to reduce the risk of deep-vein thrombosis. The grape diet is used as a cleansing and elimination diet, and as a means of providing a hefty dose of antioxidants.
So, is it time for a glass of red wine? Maybe not
Dr. Merola, author of Dr. Mercola's Total Health Program: The Proven Plan to Prevent Disease and Premature Aging, Optimize Weight and Live Longer warns: "While red wine may appear to provide some great health benefits, I do not advise drinking it at all, as I am convinced that the alcohol itself is actually a poison and will unbalance your hormones. Also, drinking two or more glasses (of wine or any alcoholic beverage for that matter) may offset the benefit and actually increase your risk of certain cancers. So if you absolutely insist on drinking red wine, check on the growing conditions of the grapes used and how the wine is made.
"Additionally, if the wine isn't made with organic grapes, it may not contain resveratrol, which rules out the benefits you seek. It is also important to understand that consuming large amounts of wine or grapes which have a lower concentration of antioxidants than wine will likely increase insulin levels and eventually have a negative impact on your health. Thus, it may be most beneficial to eat grape skins and pass up the meat of the grape, which has no resveratrol but a lot of extra fructose."
Produced by the pineal gland, melatonin is a remarkable hormone that works not only as a sleeping aid, but is a potent antioxidant, immune booster and guardian of our aging clock. It is produced in the dark while you sleep. If you get up during the night and put on a bright light, melatonin production stops immediately.
In his book, The Miracle of Melatonin, James O'Brien states: "Over 30 years of laboratory research has convinced some of the best and brightest investigators in the world that melatonin can halt the aging process, restore youthful vigor, and prevent and treat diseases we normally associate with growing old.
"It is a super antioxidant that protects cells from free radical damage, slows the growth of tumors, regulates blood pressure, wards off heart disease, prevents cancer, modulates the release of heart-killing stress hormones, eases the symptoms of PMS, stalls or stops memory loss, helps control Parkinson's disease, stops or delays the formation of cataracts, and generally protects vision and maintains and restores libido."
Melatonin production declines with age, so supplementation may be beneficial after the age of fifty. Start with the lowest possible dose (1-3 mg) taken half an hour before bedtime on alternate days.
Green tea extract
One of the great advancements in nutrition in the twenty-first century is the scientific confirmation of the many benefits of green tea extract. Here are just a few: Green tea lowers cholesterol, slows arthritis, lowers sugar levels, making it useful for diabetes and weight loss programs, and prevents the growth of cancer cells.
Researchers studied two groups of men with a pre-cancerous condition of the prostate. One group consumed the equivalent of 12 to 15 cups of green tea a day; the other group did not. One year later, 30% of the men who did not consume green tea supplements developed prostate cancer. Only 3% of the men who took green tea supplements developed cancer.
What accounts for the health benefits of green tea extract? Over 1,800 scientific studies have found that the active constituents in green tea are powerful antioxidants. These are called polyphenols (catechins) and flavonols. Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) is the most powerful of these antioxidants. Milligram for milligram, EGCG has 25 to 100 times the antioxidant power of vitamin C and vitamin E. A cup of green tea has more antioxidants than a serving of broccoli, spinach, carrots or strawberries.
These abundant antioxidants power the benefits of green tea extract. They keep DNA intact and they stabilize the membranes of cells. These effects of green tea make it a powerful support in many health conditions.
Proanthocyanidins more technically oligomeric proanthocyanidins (OPCs) are a class of flavonoids.
The discovery of OPCs can be attributed to Professor Jacques Masquelier. Dr. Masquelier spent almost a half century researching OPC. He also invented the extraction techniques by which OPCs are obtained from plants rich in these substances.
OPCs are found in many woody plants. The two most common sources of proanthocyanidins are grape seeds (Vitis vinifera) and the white pine (Pinus maritima, P. pinaster) of southern Europe. Grape seeds can have 7 to 15% more OPCs than pine bark and can be more potent as well as more economical.
Proanthocyanidins deserve their stellar reputation as antioxidants that quench free radicals and potentiate other antioxidants. In one in vitro study, the OPCs in a patented pine bark extract prolonged the life span of vitamin C by 400%. Another in vitro study showed that exposing blood vessel linings to pine bark OPCs boosted their vitamin E content by 15%. Grape seed has also shown recycling and potentiating effects. The test tube-based activity of vitamin E, in a system mimicking cell membranes, has shown enhancement by grape seed OPCs.
In the future, health care providers may hand out OPC pills as readily as they recommend aspirin today. A steady stream of animal and in vitro studies supplemented by epidemiological evidence and a smattering of preliminary human studies reveal numerous health benefits associated with these compounds. Chief among the benefits is antioxidant protection against heart disease and cancer.
OPCs can also be useful in helping to treat arthritis and vascular problems such as varicose veins, spider veins and poor circulation.
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is a compound found in the energy-producing center of the cell known as the mitochondria. CoQ10 is involved in the making of an important molecule known as adenosine triphosphate (ATP). ATP serves as the cell's major energy source and drives a number of biological processes including muscle contraction and the production of protein. CoQ10 also works as an antioxidant.
CoQ10 levels are reported to decrease with age and to be low in patients with some chronic diseases such as heart conditions, muscular dystrophies, Parkinson's disease, cancer, diabetes, and HIV/AIDS. Some prescription drugs may also lower CoQ10 levels.
Our bodies are able to produce some of the CoQ10 that we need. The rest is synthesized from the foods we eat. The highest dietary sources of CoQ10 come from in descending order according to content fresh sardines and mackerel, the heart, liver and meat of beef, lamb and pork along with eggs. There are plenty of vegetable sources of CoQ10, the richest being spinach, broccoli, peanuts, wheat germ and whole grains in that order, although the amount is significantly smaller than that found in meats. Also, it is important to note that these foods must be raw, fresh and unprocessed no milling, canning, preserving, freezing, etc., plus grown/produced in an unpolluted environment to be considered viable sources. CoQ10 can also be taken as a supplement.
Clinical research suggests that using CoQ10 supplements alone or in combination with other drug therapies and nutritional supplements may help prevent or treat angina and heart disease. One important clinical study, for example, found that people who received daily CoQ10 supplements within 3 days of a heart attack were significantly less likely to experience subsequent heart attacks and chest pain.
Studies of women with breast cancer suggest that CoQ10 supplements (in addition to conventional treatment and a nutritional regimen including other antioxidants and essential fatty acids) may shrink tumors, reduce pain associated with the condition, and cause partial remission in some individuals.
Gum disease is a widespread problem that is associated with swelling, bleeding, pain, and redness of the gums. Clinical studies have reported that people with gum disease tend to have low levels of CoQ10 in their gums. In a few clinical studies involving small numbers of subjects, CoQ10 supplements caused faster healing and tissue repair. CoQ10 is used in mouth rinse products for this condition.
Carnosine oral supplementation is relatively new, and there is no RDA for this substance. The normal dose for anti-aging benefits is 100 to 200 milligrams each day. Such dosages have failed to produce any report of serious side effects or contraindications to date. There have been some reports of disturbing muscle twitching with dosages of over 1 gram per day.
Russian researchers have developed carnosine eyedrops, which are used for age-related eye disorders. This form of carnosine is not for oral use as it is not absorbed through the stomach, but it has demonstrated some remarkable effects on patients with cataracts, a condition caused by the free-radical damage to the eye lens. In some cases, the cataracts went away completely, and these results were maintained with regular use of the drops.
Carnosine should not be confused with either carnitine or acetyl-l carnitine, which are also amino acids.
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