The real power of antioxidants


ON MY RADIO SHOW I GIVE OUT an award called the "Wish You Were Here Award." It is an award given to people who are so tar off in their understanding of nutrition that they ate sent a postcard with a picture of the earth on one side with the phrase "Wish You Were Here" written on the back.

Such an award should be given to anyone left in the medical community who has not yet embraced the power of antioxidants. The literature supporting the many benefits of antioxidant nutrients in the prevention of disease--most notably heart disease, the nation's number one killer--is overwhelming.

The question is no longer whether to take antioxidants. The only question is how much? To answer that, let's look at the research and see what it suggests.

Ailments Which Antioxidants Can Help Prevent and/or Slow the Progression Of

Alzheimer's Disease





Heart Disease

Hepatitis (all forms)

Immune Weakness

Inflammatory Disorders

Macular Degeneration

Parkinson's Disease

If there ever were nutrients that came close to embodying Mother Teresa, they would be antioxidants. These remarkable nutrients give freely of themselves so your cells can live.

How do they do this? Antioxidants are molecules that are able to give up tiny things called electrons in order to prevent your cells from being ripped apart. This may destroy the antioxidant, but no matter: it protects something infinitely more important--your cells. You can always take more antioxidants.

What you can't get more of are precious parts of your body, such as brain cells, cells of the retina, and arterial tissue other delicate cells thee, once destroyed, are difficult, if not impossible, to replace.

The most powerful role of antioxidants is in the prevention of cardiovascular disease, our number one killer. Diseases of the heart and arteries have killed more Americans than all wars combined. Antioxidants are one of the most powerful solutions we have. You would think we would use them. Most Americans still do not. This is tragic.

One of the key ways antioxidants prevent heart disease is by keeping cholesterol from undergoing a reaction known as oxidation. Only when cholesterol oxidizes is it able to damage arteries and start the progression of events that leads to heart disease. The amount of vitamin E--one of the most important nutrient antioxidants--needed to prevent cholesterol oxidation is not available through food. You must get at least 400 IUs of vitamin E per day to help cholesterol from going bad and beginning to damage arteries, and our diet only contains between 8-11 IUs per day. (Arterioscler. Thromb. Vasc. Biol. 15:325-33, 1995) Even supplements of 200 IUs are inadequate. (Arterioscler. Thromb. Vasc. Biol. 15:190-8, 1995) And vitamin E does not just prevent heart disease, it can also reverse its progression, according to animal studies. (J. Am. Coll. Nutr. 11:130-7, 1992)

Population studies show that in areas where plasma vitamin E levels are low, there are far more deaths from ischemic heart disease. In a comparison of plasma antioxidant levels of middle-aged men (40-59years of age) from European countries, the more vitamin E they had in their body, the fewer deaths they had from ischemic heart disease. (Am J. Clin. Nutr. 53:326S-34S, 1991)

Low body levels of vitamins A, C and E and beta-carotene were associated with an increased risk of coronary artery disease in elderly subjects in an urban area of India. (Am. J. Cardiol. 76:1233-8, 1995)

The association between vitamin C and vitamin E intake and coronary artery disease progression was evaluated in middle-aged men in the United States with previous coronary bypass graft surgery. Men who took at least 100 IUs of vitamin E per day from supplements showed significantly less coronary artery disease progression for all lesions and for mild to moderate lesions than men who took less than 100 IUs per day. The most important finding of this study is that no benefit was seen for the small amount of vitamin E contributed by food-only supplements were able to slow progression of the disease. (JAMA 273:1849-54, 1995)

A recent randomized trial in England evaluated the effect of vitamin E supplementation (400 or 800 IUs per day) or placebo on the risk of myocardial infarction in 2,002 patients with evidence of coronary atherosclerosis. Results of the Cambridge Heart Antioxidant Study (CHAOS) demonstrated that vitamin E supplementation significantly decreased the risk of cardiovascular disease and nonfatal myocardial infarction by 47 percent. This observed benefit of vitamin E was due to a 77 percent decrease in the risk of nonfatal myocardial infarction. Amazingly, this treatment effect was apparent after only 200 days. (Lancet 347:781-6, 1996.)

A large study conducted in the United States further confirmed the protective power of vitamin C and vitamin E supplements in cutting heart disease deaths. In a group of 11,1.78 subjects, 67-105 years of age, use of vitamin E supplements decreased the risk of coronary heart disease mortality by a whopping 47 percent. Simultaneous use of both vitamin C and vitamin E supplements decreased the risk of coronary heart disease mortality by 53 percent. (Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 64: 190-6, 1996)

Selenium is a trace mineral with remarkable protective power. A recent study of 1312 people given 200 mcg per day of selenium for 10 years showed that this supplement alone could decrease their cancer deaths by 50 percent. Most importantly, no one in this population was deficient in selenium when the study began. This study showed clearly that the cancer-preventing power of selenium only comes when it is consumed in optimal, not merely deficiency preventing, amounts. For most people this is 200 mcg per day. (JAMA 1996 276(24): 1957-63)

You might be reading all of this research and say, "Enough already! You've made your point." Well, the medical community still hasn't gotten the message. And the cost is not just increased health care costs--it is also human lives. Not incorporating the power of antioxidants into medicine is no longer acceptable. It is inhumane.

So take antioxidants. Please. One day insurance companies will give lower rates to people who take them. Better yet, they will give all policyholders antioxidant supplements for free. Why not? these nutrients are one of the best insurance policies we have against a range of degenerative diseases.

Let's close by looking at some other powerful antioxidants and their benefits:

CoQ10 is a remarkable antioxidant that plays an important role protecting our arteries and all of our cells.

Lycopene is a pigment found in tomatoes, watermelon, pink grapefruits and apricots which is also available as a supplement that has powerful anti-cancer and artery protecting effects.

Acetyl-L-Carnitine is a powerful antioxidant that slows the aging process.

Taurine is a very important antioxidant nutrient that also is an excellent diuretic and heart-helping nutrient.

Lipoic acid is a tremendous nutrient with antioxidant, blood sugar balancing and energizing benefits. It also helps increase levels of glutathione, one of the most important antioxidants in cells.

N-Acetyl-Cysteine is a powerful antioxidant that also raises glutathione levels and protects and enhances the function of the liver.

Zinc is not to be underappreciated as an antioxidant and may be one of the key nutrients for the prevention of heart disease as well.

Conjugated linoleic acid is a powerful antioxidant that has profound anti-cancer effects, according to animal studies. It is found in meat and dairy products, particularly those which come from grass fed-cattle.

Alpha lipoic acid is a vitamin-like antioxidant that is produced naturally in the body and found in certain foods such as potatoes and red meat.

Years of research clearly demonstrate the unique properties of alpha lipoic acid, however, it is not yet a widely-known substance. Alpha lipoic acid is the only fat and water soluble free radical antioxidant, therefore, it is easily absorbed and transported across cell membranes Protecting us against free radicals both inside and outside our cells. Inside the cell, where sensitive genetic material and other cell components exist, alpha lipoic acid is readily reduced to dihydrolipoic acid (DHLA), an even more potent antioxidant.

We encounter free radicals every day through cigarette smoke, car exhaust, irradiation, pollution, chemicals in our water and air, drinking alcohol and exposure to the sun. We continuously form free radicals in the body as a natural part of respiration and metabolism. We create free radicals as we convert food to energy. Free radicals damage capillary and nerve endings, damage proteins which may create cataracts or damage elastin and collagen which are associated with aging and wrinkles. Free radicals are a major cause of many of the complications associated with diabetes. Free radicals also damage tissues where inflammation is present such as with arthritis and asthma. Antioxidants neutralize free radicals, preventing them from causing harm.

Alpha lipoic acid has been used for years throughout Europe to treat and prevent complications associated with diabetes, including neuropathy, macular degeneration and cataracts. These and many other health problems are associated with low levels of alpha lipoic acid in the body. Studies show that diabetics lower their insulin requirements; this also helps reduce complications.

An abundance of promising research has also shown the ability of alpha lipoic acid to inhibit replication of HIV and other viruses, to protect LDL cholesterol from oxidation which is associated with cardiovascular disease, to protect the liver from damage from alcohol or other toxins and also to prevent damage from radiation.

We do not obtain enough alpha lipoic acid through the diet to obtain this protection, so supplementation is required-100 to 200 mg daily. Therapeutic doses are higher. Studies show that 600 mg per day may be beneficial for diabetics and those with other health problems such as HIV or cataracts. Alpha lipoic acid supplements are available without prescription in health food stores and pharmacies.

For more information read The Potato Antioxidant: Alpha Lipoic Acid by Beth M. Ley. (Excerpt reprinted by permission of BL Publications Copyright 1996 Alieso Viejo, CA.)

Essential for many cellular functions, glutathione is a tripeptide of connected molecules composed of three nonessential amino acids: cysteine, glutamic acid and glycine. Most people get some glutathione from food, which the body manufactures from the building blocks mentioned.

Without glutathione people suffer from an inability to detoxify metabolic wastes and in eliminating toxic substances like heavy metals and other environmental poisons. This may lead to heart disease, joint disorders, cancer and problems with the endocrine, immune and nervous systems.

Even healthy people under stress can become subject to a disrupted balance. They could be sick or battling an inflammation or infection, or healing from an injury, while more free radicals are created and must be eliminated. Glutathione will do the job. It will also seek out the free radicals formed when people are exposed to cigarette smoke, alcohol, mercury, air pollution, food additives, pesticides and ultraviolet light.

Maintaining an optimal level of the raw materials of the amino acids will in turn maintain an optimal level of glutathione. Needed cofactors that properly assist glutathione function are the following: alpha lipoic acid, riboflavin (vitamin B2) and the minerals selenium and zinc, of which selenium is a vital component.

Research shows red grape seed extract is a new super antioxidant that provides more protection than vitamins C and E.

A highly potent antioxidant derived from red grape seeds, Activin Registered Trademark, has been shown to reduce the death and damage to human cells caused by tobacco products by up to 85 percent and defends cells against the detrimental effects of tobacco better than vitamin C and E.

The findings of the study, conducted by Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska, was presented at the fourth annual meeting of The Oxygen Society.

The study sought to determine if antioxidants protect against tobacco induced cell damage and death. First, researchers introduced a smokeless tobacco extract to cultured human oral keratinocyte cells. The tobacco extract induced apoptopic cell death in 35 percent of the cells tested. Apoptosis, or programmed cell death, has been linked to several chronic conditions, including cancer, heart attack, stroke and Alzheimer's disease.

"Approximately one-third of all cancers in America are believed to be tobacco related," said Debasis Bagchi, lead researcher of the Creighton team. "Our objective was to determine how Activin's Registered Trademark super antioxidant abilities would perform against the damage tobacco use can cause."

Next, researchers treated the oral cell cultures with Activin Registered Trademark before exposure to the tobacco extract. It reduced tobacco-induced cell death by 85 percent. In addition, it provided significant protection against cell damage caused by lipid peroxidation and DNA fragmentation resulting from tobacco exposure.

The Creighton study also tested the protective abilities of other antioxidants against the effects of tobacco on oral cells, including vitamins E and C. Activin Registered Trademark demonstrated significantly better protection than both E and C, both separately and in combination, against cell death and damage. In earlier studies from Creighton University, Activin Registered Trademark proved to be a superior antioxidant to vitamins C, E and beta carotene in its free radical-scavenging ability.

GREEN TEA (Camellia sinensis)

The fact that green tea promotes good health will come as no surprise to the Chinese and Japanese people who have been drinking it for thousands of years. In fact, a whole book on the health benefits of green tea was written in the year 121 1, in which the monk Eisai stated, "Tea is a miraculous medicine for the maintenance of health. Tea has an extraordinary power to prolong life."

Yes, green tea has been considered a "medicine" in China for over 4,000 years and was written about by both Dharma, the founder of Zen Buddhism, and Shen-Nung, the father of the study of medicinal herbs. For these and many other ancients, tea was considered "the elixir of the gods."

The manufacturing methods used in making black, oolong and green tea not only alter the taste, aroma and quality of the finished brew but also change the way tea can affect one's health. That's because unfermented green tea leaves contain much larger amounts of a group of potent health promoters called polyphenols, which are chemically changed during the fermentation of black and oolong teas.

Polyphenols are naturally occurring chemical compounds found in certain fruits and vegetables, potatoes, garlic and a few other foods. A subgroup of the polyphenols, the catechins (pronounced "CAT-i-kins"), are particularly powerful disease fighters and potent antioxidants that have a host of beneficial effects, from preventing food spoilage to halting the progression of cancer. Catechins are found in wine, ginkgo biloba leaves and pine bark but appear in the greatest quantity in fresh tea leaves.

The way the tea leaf is processed greatly affects the catechin content of the finished tea. For example, the catechin content of green tea is an impressive 15-30 percent of the teas dry weight. Oolong, on the other hand, contains just 8-20 percent, while black tea has only 3-10 percent.

Curiosity about the effect of green tea on human health was first aroused in the 1 970s. Epidemiologists noticed that people living in the Shizuoka Prefecture, an area in central Japan where green tea is grown and consumed in great quantities, had a much lower rate of death from stomach cancer than people living elsewhere in Japan.

Once scientists began to study the people who lived in Shizuoka Prefecture they were surprised to discover that not only did they die less often of stomach cancer but their death rates from all types of cancers were significantly lower. Curious and impresses, the scientists conducted exhaustive studies of the population. The only major difference they could find was that the people who lived in Shizuoka Prefecture drank significantly more green tea than people living in areas with higher rates of cancer.

For more information read Green Tea The Natural Secret for a Healthier Life by Nadine Taylor, M.S., R.D. (Kensington Books, NY. Copyright Copyright 1998 by Nadine Taylor. Excerpt reprinted by permission).


by M. A. Congdon

You are what you eat. This truth reaches even the cellular level. Health and well-being are directly tied to diet but what can you do when even the most balanced and nutrient-rich diet does not support your body's most basic part, the cell?

The chemical reactions within the cell that use carbohydrates for energy and protein for tissue rebuilding need assistance that is not always available in our diets.

Coenzyme Q10, a fat-soluble substance found in virtually every cell of the body, works just like a vitamin. CoQ10 functions within the cell like vitamin E; it participates in antioxidant and free radical reactions and is involved in the production of energy. The body produces Coenzyme Q10 and it is available in the diet, but many researchers feel that CoQ10 is not available in sufficient quantities.

CoQ10 may be the key to many degenerative tissue disorders and their accompanying ailments. As many as half of all patients with heart disease have drastically low levels of CoQ10. In fact, CoQ10 has become the treatment of choice for heart disease in many countries. Animal studies have shown that Coq10 normalized high blood pressure in experiments. Investigations of diseased gum tissue has revealed very low levels of CoQ10. With sufficient treatment, the gums heal, teeth tighten up and gum pockets disappear. As we get older breakdown of cellular membranes occur resulting in the lowering of Coq10 levels within the body. In order to prevent the degeneration of tissue, adequate amounts of CoQ10 must be provided.

Coenzyme Q10 supports the necessary function of energy production within the cell, strengthening tissues and organs for increased strength and longevity.
PYCNOGENOL Registered Trademark

Extracted from the bark of Pinus maritima, the coastal pine tree found in abundance in southern France, pycnogenol is made up of a combination of flavoids that occur naturally in small amounts in some fruits and vegetables. However, antioxidant-rich fruits, vegetables and nuts lose their potency when they are harvested, processed, frozen and cooked. A recent study in the British scientific journal, The Lancet, showed that risk of heart disease was 50 percent lower in populations that consumed high amounts of flavonoids (at least 30 mg a day) than groups that took in low amounts of these antioxidants.

Decades of laboratory research and clinical studies conducted by Dr. Jack Masquelier show that pycnogenol contains approximately 40 natural ingredients, including proanthocyanidins, organic acids and related bioavailable components such as glucosides and glucose esters. It is a potent antioxidant that protects against free-radicals, has been shown to be many times more powerful than vitamin C or vitamin E and has the added benefit of working synergistically with many nutrients that support health.

Millions of people, in Europe and the United States athletes in particular, rely on pycnogenol to maintain skin health and overall health during the aging process. It is one of the best tried-and-tested products in its category, non-toxic and non-carcinogenic. The effective dose is about 1.5 mg for one pound of body weight. A 150-pound person would take between 150 and 225 milligrams for the first seven to 10 days and half that dose thereafter for maintenance. Talk to a qualified health practitioner before you initiate any type of self-managed care.

(Reduces rates of coronary heart disease.)

A number of recent scientific reports lend credence to the role of vitamin E supplements in reducing the risk of the heart disease.

In a major intervention study 1000 patients with heart disease received vitamin E supplements of 800 or 400 international day for 18 months, while another 1000 patients received a placebo. Those taking vitamin E supplements had a 75 percent reduction in new heart attacks (myocardial infarcts). In other words, the men who received vitamin E had only 25 percent as many new heart attacks as the patients who received the placebo.

Dr. Morris Brown, one of the lead researchers on this study from the University of Cambridge, said upon release of his study, "Now we can confidently say that vitamin E protects against heart attacks. I will be recommending that patients with angina and those who are at risk of heart disease should be given supplementary vitamin E at a high dose."

The amount of vitamin E given in this intervention study and others, is far in excess of what anyone could possibly get from diet alone. In a review of the current scientific evidence on vitamin E, published in the June 19 issue of the journal of the American Medical Association, Dr. Robert Russell, from Tufts University, noted that "100-200 IU of vitamin E is far in excess of the level that can be achieved in an otherwise healthful diet."

Recognized food sources of vitamin E include oils, nuts, seeds and green leafy vegetables; however dietary sources high in vitamin E are often high in fat also. To get 100 IU vitamin E daily, a person must consume seven cups of peanuts, two cups of corn oil or 19 cups of spinach. The levels found to be protective by researchers are also substantially higher than the current Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for vitamin E, which is only 15 IU for men and 12 IU for women.

Dr. Lester Packer, an expert in antioxidants at the University of California at Berkeley, emphasizes that "the evidence on vitamin E is becoming more and more compelling with each well done study, and the case for supplements is particularly strong."

Two earlier studies from Harvard University showed that people who took at least 100 IU of vitamin E for at least two years had about 40 percent lower risk of heart disease than people who had low intakes of vitamin E. A dose-response study found that vitamin E at levels of 400 IU, but not at lower levels, reduced the oxidation of LDL cholesterol.

Courtesy Council for Responsible Nutrition, Washington, D.C.

You may not be able to take all of these nutrients every day. But make sure you take the three most important regularly: vitamins C, E, and selenium. You should also be taking a high-quality multivitamin which is iron-free. While a subset of the population does need iron supplements, most of us do not. Too much can increase the levels of free radicals in our body. Also, eat your antioxidants! Fruits and especially vegetables are rich sources, as are herbs, spices and herbal teas. Thyme, rosemary, cayenne pepper and chamomile all have antioxidant power.

Vitamin A 10,000-25,000 IUs (not above
8,000 IUs for any woman who is
or could become pregnant)
Beta-carotene 25,000-200,000 IUs
Lycopene 5-20 mg
Vitamin B2 10-100 milligrams
B6 50-100 mg
Folic Acid 400-1,000 mcg
B12 400-1,000 mcg
Vitamin C 1,000 milligrams and beyond
Vitamin E 400 IUs
Zinc 15-50 milligrams
Copper Sebacate 1-2 milligrams
Manganese 2-4 milligrams
Selenium 100-400 micrograms
CoEnzyme Q10 30-300 milligrams
Acetyl L-carnitine 500-1,000 mg
Lipoic acid 50-200 mg
NAC 500-2,000 milligrams
Taurine 500-3,000 milligrams
Grape seed extract 50-200 mg
Curcuminoids 100-300 mg
Aged Garlic Extract 1-3 capsules

PHOTO (COLOR): The Real Power of Antioxidants


by Robert Crayhon, M.S.

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