by Lynn Hinderliter CN, LDN

antioxidantOur modern lifestyle exposes us to so many toxic insults to our bodies, that it is depressing to think of them all. Polluted air and water, stress, alcohol, smoking and also second-hand smoke, viruses, chemicals in our houses, pesticides on and on our foods – the list goes on and on. The way in which we are harmed by these substances has to do with processes  in our bodies that produce highly reactive substances called free radicals. These are molecules that have become unstable, and are very damaging to our cells and tissues. Many nutritionists are of the opinion that free radicals are at the root of all the major chronic diseases that plague our modern times, to include many forms of heart disease, cancer, arthritis, degenerative mental problems like Alzheimer’s, and many more. antioxidant

Now what if there were a vast body of scientific evidence that suggested you could take some simple steps to protect yourself against all this devastation? No absolute guarantees, of course – where are there in this life? – but good, solid studies that showed real proof that these strategies helped. What if, in addition, this were an inexpensive thing to do, and – wait for it-  absolutely safe, no possible harm or side effects? It wouldn’t make sense not to try and protect yourself, would it? antioxidant

Well, it will come as no surprise to most of you that I am going to tell you these White Knights who will come riding to our defense are antioxidants. These are vitamins, some minerals, some enzymes and some amino acids, which form a defense mechanism against damage from free radicals.  We mentioned smoking above, and now there are some reliable studies done at the University of Carolina in 2000 which show incontrovertibly that smoking diminishes the level of antioxidants in the body .  They tested 30 smokers whose mean age was 20 (I remember that as being a pretty mean age!) for oxidative stress levels.  They were divided into 4 groups, placebo, supplementation with 400 i.u of E, supplementation  with 400 E and 1000mg of Vit. C, or supplementation with 1000mg of Vit. C.  The Vitamin E group showed some increase in the time it took to oxidize LDL, but the other groups showed no change in that time at all.  This shows that smoking negates the effects of antioxidants in a very significant way.

Some confusing studies have emerged on antioxidants and cancer recently, and here is what the A.P. John Institute for Cancer Research has to say:

The controversy about whether to treat cancer with anti-oxidants is slowly resolving with the newer understanding of how they affect the activity of genes and enzymes in cancer cells. The prevailing data shows that the benefits, or lack of benefits, depend upon the oxidative state the cancer cells are in. Anti-oxidants taken when the cells are in a very high oxidative state may prevent them from entering apoptosis or from committing suicide. When oxidative stress in cancer cells is only slightly above normal, however, then anti-oxidants are expected to stop their growth and reproduction.

In other words, if you HAVE cancer, use anti-oxidants under the care of a health professional only.  If you want to do all you can to avoid it – well, that’s another matter!

The best known antioxidants are Vitamins E & C, Beta and other Carotenes, Selenium, Glutathione & Superoxide Dismutase.  Large scale studies have shown significant benefit against heart attacks and stroke using them: Dr. Julian Whitaker cites one study of 87,245 nurses, which concluded that nurses who took as little as 100 i.u. of Vitamin E daily for more than 2 years had a 41% lower risk of heart disease, compared to non vitamin E users.  In a study in the British Medical Journal (June 1995), two British physicians traced a 30% increase in  cardio-vascular disease in winter to a slight seasonal decrease in Vitamin C levels. antioxidant

An intriguing side effect of the exercise we are all doing now to increase our health, is the increase in free radicals exercise produces.   In other words, the harder we exercise, the more of these anti-oxidants we would, in my opinion, be wise to use. I am sure we can all recall cases of people who had been doing all the right things for their health – stopped smoking and drinking, watching their diets, and increased their level of physical fitness – only to be felled by cancer or heart disease: perhaps the one thing they were not doing, was protecting themselves from the damage done by the extra demands on their bodies. antioxidant

Many super foods are good sources of anti-oxidants: in Eastern cultures Green Tea has been found to be protective – in Europe, Red Wine. There are supplements available which blend Beta-Carotene, E & C with botanicals such as Turmeric, Grapeskin and Green Tea . Green Barley Grass, and other green foods, are also high in protective substances, while from tropical lands Acai is a recent find. Berries such as blueberries and raspberries are treasure troves of antioxidants, as are fruits such as watermelons and pomeranates. antioxidant

Prudent people are now adding these to their diets to take advantage of their positive elements. It makes sense: it’s OUR health – let’s take care of it!  antioxidant

Find the recommended supplements here

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