Exploring the Benefits of Antioxidants

Holistic Fitness/ Nutrition   /   Dec 31st, 1969   /   0 COMMENTS   /  A+ | a-

The following article was originally published in "Health Keepers," a magazine created by Trinity's founder, Dr. Wendell Whitman. Health Keepers is a publication of Trinity School of Natural Health Inc. This article appeared in Volume 1 • Issue 3 • Summer 1998, pg 9-10, 30. This article originally titled, "Antioxidants" was written by Max Sherman, R Ph. 

Dr. Kenneth Cooper, the father of the worldwide aerobics movement and preventative medicine, has authored a book called The Antioxidant Revolution. In it, Cooper provides a program of diet and exercise which [may] delay the signs of aging and reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease. The diet consists of megadoses of beta carotene and vitamins C and E, the antioxidants Dr. Cooper claims to act as a personal defense system to provide a longer and healthier life.

Health store and pharmacy shelves are now stocked with an array of these vitamins in a number of dosage forms, plus a host of others, including coenzyme Q 10 (ubiquinol-10), pycnogenol, selenium, curcumin, bioflavonoids, grapeseed extract, lycopene, and lipoic acid. The latter is an approved supplement in Germany for the treatment of diabetic neuropathy and is effective against both water- and fat-soluble free radicals. Lipoic acid has recently been introduced in the United States. Lycopene is a fat-soluble antioxidant found in tomato sauce and is similar to beta carotene. According to the Tomato Research Council and the American Health Foundation, lycopene can [help to] ward off prostate, digestive tract, and other cancers.

Curcumin is the yellow pigment and primary active component of turmeric (Circuma longa). It is comparable to standard antioxidants like vitamins C and E, and a powerful inhibitor of lipid peroxide. Pycnogenol is the trade name of a potent antioxidant extracted from the bark of the French maritime pine in southern France and is a member of the bioflavonoid family. Bioflavonoids enhance the body’s utilization of vitamin C and prolong its healing activity.

The multiple choices and combinations of antioxidants are no doubt confusing to the layperson. The [nutrition expert] should be equipped to clarify any questions regarding the oxidative process, mechanism of action, definitions, indications for use, dosage and administration, and precautions. This article will provide some of that information and references for additional study.



Mechanism of Action. Before health professionals can advise clients on antioxidant [protocols], they should be aware of a number of terms and definitions.

These include:

Radical: A radical is an atom or molecule which contains one or more unpaired electrons.

Free Radical: A free radical is a radical which has moved out of the immediate molecular environment of its generation. Free radicals are often defined as reactive oxygen species occurring in tissues and cells. They have the ability to react with most normal cellular components, causing cell and tissue damage.

Oxidation: An increase in the positive valance state of a substance, such as by removal of one or more electrons from a molecule. (Conversely, reduction is the addition of one or more electrons to a molecule.) Thus, when one substance is oxidized, the other is reduced.

Peroxidation: The introduction of a peroxyl (0-0) moiety into a molecule. Lipid peroxy radicals are formed when oxygen attacks the fatty acids in cell membranes.

Reactive: Reactivity is a measure of the rate at which a substance is transformed chemically. It is not a property intrinsic to an individual substance but is dependent on the nature and concentrations of available reactants.

Oxidation. Cellular metabolism produces oxidant by-products which can cause extensive damage to DNA, proteins, and lipids. Oxidation also occurs when phagocytic cells combat bacteria, parasite and virus-laden cells with nitric oxide (NO), superoxide (O2), hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), and hypochlorite (OCl), a powerful oxidant mixture. These oxidants protect humans from immediate death from infection but cause oxidative damage to DNA and mutation, thereby contributing to the carcinogenic process. Cytochrome P-450 enzymes, one of the body’s defense mechanisms to prevent acute toxic effects from foreign chemicals, are another source of oxidant by-products that can damage DNA.

Metabolic processes, phagocytic reactions, and cytochrome P-450 enzymes are three endogenous sources for most of the oxidants produced by the cells. Exogenous sources include cigarette smoke, which contains the oxides of nitrogen; excessive intake of iron and copper salts, which can promote the generation of oxidizing radicals from peroxides; and diets that contain plant foods with large amounts of phenolic compounds. Oxidant damage occurring from any of these sources appears to be a major contributor to aging and degenerative diseases of aging, such as atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease, cancer, cataracts, and brain dysfunction. Fortunately, the human body makes several important antioxidants. The most important include ubiquinol and glutathione. Enzymes such as superoxide dismutase (SOD), catalase, and glutathione peroxidase also destroy some free radicals.

Animals with longer life spans appear to have higher levels of SOD to detoxify the free radical superoxide. Superoxide dismutase has been touted as an anti-aging drug, but when ingested, it decomposes into basic amino acids, which do not recombine to form SOD.

The chemistry of free radicals is extremely complex and beyond the scope of this article. In addition, there are a number of continuous interactions between free radicals and biological molecules which result in inconclusive linking between free radicals and injury. The prevalence of oxygen in biological tissues and the rapid reaction of most organic radicals with oxygen (forming peroxyl radicals and hydroperoxides) further confound the issue.

Antioxidants may act at different levels in the oxidative process by:
1. scavenging initiating radicals
2. binding metal ions
3. scavenging peroxyl radicals
4. removing oxidatively damaged biomolecules

Some antioxidant molecules are synthesized in the body, for example, glutathione or ubiquinol, whereas others have to be provided as micronutrients, such as ascorbic acid, beta carotene, vitamin E, and trace metals like selenium.

Dosage. Dr. Cooper bases his dosage requirements for the antioxidants vitamin C, vitamin E, beta carotene, and selenium on age and activity level. While he mentions ubiquinol, he believes there is not sufficient data to recommend it at this time. From vitamin E, he recommends the natural form, which is designated as d-alpha-tocopherol. Although the dl- or synthetic form has antioxidant activity, it may actually inhibit the d-form from entering cell membranes. Cooper’s daily dosage recommendations include vitamin C—500 to 3000 mg, vitamin E—200 to 1200 IU, beta carotene—10,000 to 50,000 IU, and selenium, an optional 50 to 100 mcg. The dose is dependent upon activity level, gender, and body weight. Active people, particularly weight lifters and runners, require higher dosages, as do men and individuals who weigh more.

Antioxidants should be taken in divided doses and with food to enhance absorption. Vitamin E supplements are contraindicated in patients taking anticoagulants since vitamin E increases their effects. Because of possible liver toxicity, beta carotene should not be consumed with alcohol or used as a supplement for the client who drinks excessively. Large doses of vitamin C are contraindicated in diabetics, and doses greater than 4000 mg daily may cause gastric distress or kidney stones. Selenium may lower the risk of certain cancers, but this has yet to be confirmed. 

Selenium doses greater than 200 mcg per day are not recommended.

Final Thoughts. In light of all the detrimental effects of free radicals and the possible benefits taking antioxidants, it appears prudent for the health professional to recommend vitamins C, E, and beta carotene to his or her clients. 

According to original article, "
References available upon request."

Note: This article was edited to adhere to current legal and practical standards. 

Interested in Learning More?

At Trinity School of Natural Health, we offer multiple programs that help you to expand your nutrition knowledge. Check out our Certified Nutritional Consultant program or our Certified Natural Health Professional program to learn more about nutrition and natural health.







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