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Monday, February 16, 2009

12 supplements that help us stay young and healthy

Do you know what epigallocatechin is? Or singlet oxygen and peroxynitrite? Ever heard of alpha-lipoic acid and ORACs? This seemingly foreign language is the key to your health. But it doesn't have to be foreign. What are these invisible friends and foes anyway?

Free radicals, the enemy within
Without the right protection, the Tin Man in the Wizard of Oz would have rusted away. And without antioxidants protecting us from the relentless attack of free radicals, we would rust on the inside, develop disease, and die young. While practically everyone wants something free, you certainly don't want these. Free radicals are vicious molecules missing an electron in their outer shell. Most are toxic forms of oxygen molecules. These unstable gangsters steal electrons from healthy cells, rendering them "biologically rusted," damaged, or destroyed. Free radicals spawn from environmental pollution, toxins, pesticides, chemicals, sunlight, radiation, food, drink, and metabolic activity in the body. These injurious free radicals destroy living tissue and fluids. They rapidly accelerate the aging process, severely damaging the ability of the immune system to battle unwanted pathogens (e.g. bacteria, viruses, and parasites) that enjoy invading your body. According to noted biochemist Richard Passwater, Ph.D., free radicals are "biological terrorists" of the human terrain.

Antioxidants are bio-police working 24/7
As free radical molecules cause oxidation, biological rusting continues inside the body. Antioxidants labor tirelessly to slow down and terminate this oxidation process. These kamikaze life-saver molecules continually seek and destroy free radicals, sacrificing themselves and self-destructing, to save other healthy cells from certain death. Catechins, which are abundant in green tea, are an example of antioxidants that readily allow themselves to be oxidized in place of more essential molecules in the body. Some antioxidants, like the proanthocyanidins (found in grapeseed and French maritime pine bark extracts) work to regenerate vitamin C, which then regenerates vitamin E.

Plants - where the antioxidant action is

The plant kingdom is home to thousands of body-friendly antioxidants identified by botanists, biologists, and biochemists. Thousands, perhaps millions more yet unknown, wait to be discovered. Appropriately dubbed phytonutrients ("phyto," meaning plant), these nutrients have names like bioflavonoids, polyphenols, and carotenoids.

12 dietary supplements that can keep you young and healthy

1. Alpha-lipoic acid is a unique water and fat-soluble antioxidant capable of quenching many more free radicals than only water or fat-soluble antioxidants. It recycles vitamins C and E, and glutathione, while scavenging and destroying free radicals.

2. Lycopene is the red carotenoid found in tomatoes, red grapefruit, apricots, and watermelon. This incredibly aggressive antioxidant has been the subject of much recent research positively validating its free radical quenching and cancer preventive abilities.

3. Indole carbinol 3 and sulforaphane stimulate the production of carcinogen killing enzymes. They are plentiful in Brussels sprouts, kale, collard greens, broccoli, mustard greens, cabbage, and cauliflower.

4. Alpha-tocopherol is commonly known as vitamin E, one of eight forms found in the vitamin E complex. Four are tocopherols, possessing antioxidant activity that has been validated in thousands of studies. Four are tocotrienols, cousins to vitamin E, which support the activity of alpha tocopherol. Olives, nuts, and seeds are rich sources.

5. Vitamin C, found in citrus fruits, tomatoes, peppers, broccoli and hot red peppers, is the primary water-soluble antioxidant in the body. Thousands of studies clearly support vitamin C's ability to protect against free radical damage. Because we cannot produce vitamin C internally, we must obtain it from food and supplemental sources.

6. Beta-carotene is one of over 600 carotenoids noted for their effectiveness at quenching singlet oxygen and other free radicals.

7. Vitamin A, the "anti-infective," maintains skin, respiratory tract surfaces, mucous membranes, and secretions, thereby reducing free radical activity generated by infection. Vitamin A converts from beta-carotene in the liver, stimulating production of white blood cells.

8. Lutein, discovered in marigolds, is best known as the eye antioxidant, preventing macular degeneration.

9. Beta 1,3-D glucan, a polysaccharide (sugar) found in yeast-cell walls and maitake mushrooms, stimulates free radical scavenging ability of natural killer cells and macrophages in the immune system.

10. NAC (n- acetyl cysteine) is an amino acid derivative that is a precursor to glutathione, the essential and most effective antioxidant in the liver.

11. SOD (superoxide dismutase), an antioxidant enzyme, prevents damage from the superoxide radical, the most common free radical we encounter.

12. Selenium is a trace mineral. Although, according to some purists, not technically an antioxidant, itself, it is generally considered one because it is essential to the formation and replenishment of the powerful free radical scavenger glutathione.

Don't forget these antioxidants
The anti-aging antioxidant ellagic acid is found in grapes, wine, berries, walnuts, apples, tea, and pomegranates. Bilberry is rich in blue-colored polyphenols that have exceptional antioxidant activity in the eyes. Epigallocatechin gallate, plentiful green tea, is perhaps more potent than any other antioxidant.

Stayin' alive with phytofood ORACs
Antioxidants are gifted with the unique ability to absorb and destroy free radicals, rendering them harmless. Breakthrough research at the USDA Human Nutrition Center for Aging at Tufts University in Boston, Massachusetts conducted by Ronald Prior, Ph.D., and his researchers uncovered and evaluated the specific free radical absorbing capacity of fruits and vegetables. This powerful capacity to absorb and neutralize free radicals was measured in what scientists call ORAC units (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity). So what's the big deal? Specifically, this tells us how aggressively antioxidants in a fruit or vegetable destroy free radicals circulating throughout the body, and how effectively they prevent cell damage and anti-aging. Take our advice on this one -- eat and drink them every day!

There's more,

Garlic and onions are loaded with organosulfur compounds that stimulate the production of glutathione s-transferase, a powerful detoxifying enzyme in the liver.

Phytic acid found in rye, wheat, rice, lima beans, sesame seeds, peanuts, and soybeans is an intense free radical gobbler.

Barley grass juice, a super nutritious green beverage contains "2-O-GIV" (2-0-glycosylisovitexin), an aggressive inhibitor of lipid peroxidation (oxidation of fat). Other green juices, specifically wheat grass juice, teem with antioxidants that rival all the others. While antioxidants will not enable us to live forever, they can certainly increase our odds of living a long and healthy life. Get your fountain of youth arsenal together today. Head to the health food store for those turn-back-the-clock antioxidant supplements. Eat 5 to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables each day. Have a refreshing green drink. Munch on those prunes. And drink your grape juice. A glass a day keeps old age away!

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