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Antioxidants


Alpha-lipoic acid

Alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) is a powerful antioxidant—both on its own and as a "recycler" of vitamin E and vitamin C. It can restore the antioxidant properties of these vitamins after they have neutralized free radicals. ALA also stimu¬lates the body's production of glutathione and aids in the absorption of coenzyme Q10, both important antioxidants. Because ALA is soluble in both water and fat, it can move into all parts of cells to deactivate free radicals.

Alpha-lipoic acid has the following functions:
  1. Enzyme cofactor
  2. Antioxidant
    1. Scavenging free radicals
    2. Regenerating other antioxidants, such as vitamin C, vitamin E, glutathione, and coenzyme Q10
    3. Chelation of metal ions
    4. Increasing intracellular glutathione levels
    5. Repair of oxidative damage
  3. Regulation of gene transcription
Supplemental ALA has been used to treat peripheral nerve degeneration and to help control blood sugar levels in people with dia¬betes. It also helps to detoxify the liver of metal pollutants, block cataract formation, protect nerve tissues against oxidative stress, and reduce blood cholesterol levels. ALA could play an important role in the prevention and treatment of chronic degenerative diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. ALA is known also as a metabolic antioxidant, because without it, cells cannot use sugar to produce energy. The body does not produce large amounts of ALA, and since it is found primarily in only a few foods, including spinach, broccoli, and organ meats, supplementation may be necessary.

Suggested Reading:
  1. Balch, Phyllis A and Balch, James F: Prescription for Nutritional Healing. 3rd ed. New York, NY: Penguin Putnam, 2000. http://www.penguinputnam.com
  2. The Linus Pauling Institute’s Micronutrient Information Center. Available at http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/othernuts/la/
  3. Fish Oil and Alpha Lipoic Acid in Treating Alzheimer’s Disease. Available at http://www.clinicaltrials.gov/show/NCT00090402
Bilberry

The herb bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus) contains natural antioxidants that keep capillary walls strong and flexible. A European relative of the American blueberry, they also help to maintain the flexibility of the walls of red blood cells and allow them to pass through the capillaries better. Anthocyanidins, phytochemicals which are found in bilberries help to lower blood pressure, inhibit clot formation, and enhance blood supply to the nervous system. Studies indicate that antho¬cyanidins can provide up to fifty times the antioxidant protection of vitamin E and ten times the protection of vitamin C. This herb also protects the eyes and may enhance vision; supports and strengthens collagen structures; in¬hibits the growth of bacteria; acts as an anti-inflammatory; and has anti-aging and anticarcinogenic effects. The compound glucoquinine, found in bilberry leaves, has also been shown to help lower blood sugar levels.

Suggested Reading:
  1. Balch, Phyllis A and Balch, James F: Prescription for Nutritional Healing. 3rd ed. New York, NY: Penguin Putnam, 2000. http://www.penguinputnam.com
Burdock

Researchers at the Chia Nan College of Pharmacy and Science in Taiwan tested burdock (Arctium lappa)for its antioxidant properties. They found that burdock is a powerful antioxidant, capable of scavenging hydrogen per¬oxide and superoxide radicals. It also showed a marked scavenging effect against hydroxyl radicals. The study showed also that burdock and vitamin E quench more free radicals when used in combination. Burdock also protects against cancer by helping to control cell mutation.

Suggested Reading:
  1. Balch, Phyllis A and Balch, James F: Prescription for Nutritional Healing. 3rd ed. New York, NY: Penguin Putnam, 2000. http://www.penguinputnam.com
Carotenoids

See under Vitamin A and the Carotenoids.

Coenzyme Q10

Coenzyme Q10 is an antioxidant. It has structural similarity to vitamin E. CoQ10 plays a crucial role in the generation of cellular energy, is a significant immunologic stimulant, increases circulation, has anti-aging effects, and is beneficial for the cardiovascular system. Also known as ubiquinone, coenzyme Q10 is found in highest concentrations in the heart, followed by the liver, kidney, spleen, and pancreas. Coenzyme Q10 helps to metabolize fats and carbohydrates within the mitochondria, the cells’ powerhouse. It also helps to maintain the flexibility of cell membranes.

In Japan, coenzyme Q10 has been approved for use in treating congestive heart failure. Various research reports suggest that coenzyme Q10 also may be beneficial in treating cancer, AIDS, muscular dystrophy, allergies, gastric ulcers, myopathy, periodontal disease, diabetes, and deafness.

  • Coenzyme Q10 is a fat-soluble compound primarily synthesized by the body and also consumed in the diet.
  • Coenzyme Q10 is required for mitochondrial ATP synthesis and functions as an antioxidant in cell membranes and lipoproteins.
  • Endogenous synthesis and dietary intake appear to provide sufficient coenzyme Q10 to prevent deficiency in healthy people.
  • Oral supplementation of coenzyme Q10 increases plasma, lipoprotein, and blood vessel levels, but it is unclear whether tissue coenzyme Q10 levels are increased, especially in healthy individuals.
  • Coenzyme Q10 supplementation has resulted in clinical and metabolic improvement in some patients with hereditary mitochondrial disorders.
  • Although coenzyme Q10 supplementation may be a useful adjunct to conventional medical therapy for congestive heart failure, additional research is needed.
  • Roles for coenzyme Q10 supplementation in other cardiovascular diseases, neurodegenerative diseases, cancer, and diabetes require further research.
  • Coenzyme Q10 supplementation does not appear to improve athletic performance.
  • Although coenzyme Q10 supplements are relatively safe, they may decrease the anticoagulant efficacy of warfarin (Coumadin).
  • Presently, it is unclear whether individuals taking cholesterol-lowering medications, known as HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors (statins), would benefit from coenzyme Q10 supplementation.

Suggested Reading:
  1. Balch, Phyllis A and Balch, James F: Prescription for Nutritional Healing. 3rd ed. New York, NY: Penguin Putnam, 2000. http://www.penguinputnam.com
  2. The Linus Pauling Institute’s Micronutrient Information Center. Available at http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/../coq10/index.html
Curcumin (Turmeric)

Found in the spice turmeric, the phytochemical curcumin has antioxidant properties that prevent the formation of and neutralize existing free radicals. It stops precancerous changes within DNA and interferes with enzymes neces¬sary for cancer progression. Curcumin stops the oxidation of cholesterol, thus protecting against the formation of plaque in the arteries. In a study of chronic smokers, those who took curcumin excreted a substantially lower level of mutagens (substances that induce cells to mutate) in their urine, a reflection of how well the body is dealing with these cancer-causing substances. Curcumin also blocks toxic compounds from reaching or reacting with body tis¬sues, and may prevent cataracts.

Curcumin should not be taken by anyone who has bil¬iary tract obstruction or is taking anticoagulants, as curcumin stimulates bile secretion and acts as a blood-thinner.

Suggested Reading:
  1. Balch, Phyllis A and Balch, James F: Prescription for Nutritional Healing. 3rd ed. New York, NY: Penguin Putnam, 2000. http://www.penguinputnam.com
Flavonoids

Flavonoids are chemical compounds that plants produce to protect themselves from parasites, bacteria, and cell injury. More than 4,000 chemically unique flavonoids are known; they occur in fruits, vegetables, spices, seeds, nuts, flowers, and bark. Wine (particularly red wine), apples, blueberries, bilberries, onions, soy products, and tea are some of the best food sources of flavonoids. Flavonoids are especially potent antioxidants and metal chelators. Certain flavonoids in fruits and vegetables have much greater antioxidant activity than vitamins C and E or beta-carotene. In fact, flavonoids protect the antioxidant vitamins from oxidative damage.

  • Flavonoids are a large family of polyphenolic compounds synthesized by plants.
  • Scientists are interested in the potential health benefits of flavonoids associated with fruit and vegetable-rich diets.
  • Many of the biological effects of flavonoids appear to be related to their ability to modulate cell signaling pathways, rather than their antioxidant activity.
  • Although higher intakes of flavonoid-rich foods are associated with reductions in cardiovascular disease risk, it is not yet known whether flavonoids themselves are cardioprotective.
  • Despite promising results in animal studies, it is not clear whether high flavonoid intakes can help prevent cancer in humans.
  • Although scientists are interested in the potential of flavonoids to protect the aging brain, it is not yet clear how flavonoid consumption affects neurodegenerative disease risk in humans.
  • Higher intakes of flavonoid-rich foods have been associated with reduced risk of chronic disease in some studies, but it is not known whether isolated flavonoid supplements or extracts will confer the same benefits as flavonoid-rich foods.

Suggested Reading:
  1. Balch, Phyllis A and Balch, James F: Prescription for Nutritional Healing. 3rd ed. New York, NY: Penguin Putnam, 2000. http://www.penguinputnam.com
  2. The Linus Pauling Institute’s Micronutrient Information Center. Available at http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/../index.html
Garlic

The sulfhydryl (sulfur and hydrogen) compounds in garlic are potent chelators of toxic heavy metals, binding with them so that they can be excreted. They are also effective protectants against oxidation and free radicals. Garlic aids in the detoxification of peroxides such as hy¬drogen peroxide and helps to prevent fats from being oxi¬dized and deposited in tissues and arteries. Garlic also contains antioxidant nutrients such as vitamins A and C and selenium.

Studies on aged garlic extract (AGE) have shown that the aging process substantially boosts garlic's antioxidant potential. AGE protects against DNA damage, keeps blood vessels healthy, and guards against radiation and sunlight damage. Aged garlic extract reduces blood cholesterol levels, thus lowering the risk of heart at¬tack; provides protection from heart disease by preventing clots that can lead to heart attacks and strokes; and helps lower high blood pressure.

Suggested Reading:
  1. Balch, Phyllis A and Balch, James F: Prescription for Nutritional Healing. 3rd ed. New York, NY: Penguin Putnam, 2000. http://www.penguinputnam.com
Ginkgo Biloba

Ginkgo biloba is an herb with powerful antioxidant effects in the brain, retina, and cardiovascular system. Gingko biloba is the extract from the leaves of the maidenhair tree and has many properties, including an anti-platelet affect on the blood and an increased ability to widen blood vessels. It is well known for its ability to enhance circulation. In one particular study it has been shown to have a measurable effect on dementia in peo¬ple with Alzheimer's disease and people recovering from strokes. Other studies indicate that it can improve both long- and short-term memory and enhance concentration. Gingko biloba has also been used to treat hearing problems, impotence, and macular degeneration.

Anyone who takes prescription anticoagulant (blood-thinning) medication or who uses over-the-counter pain¬killers regularly should consult a health care provider before using gingko biloba, as the combination may result in the following:

Increased bleeding. The substances called “gingkoglides” present in Gingko Biloba can have an antiplatelet effect and therefore make you more susceptible to bleeding. If you are using aspirin or warfarin, gingko biloba may enhance the effect of these medications making you more prone to bleeding. If you are awaiting surgery, it is advisable to discuss gingko biloba with your doctor, as you may have problems with bleeding during the operation.

Diabetes. There are some reports of gingko biloba interfering with how the body deals with insulin in patients with diabetes.

Epilepsy. People who have epileptic seizure may be at risk of more seizures if taking gingko biloba.

Adverse reactions include allergic reactions, headache and stomach upset.

Suggested Reading:
  1. Balch, Phyllis A and Balch, James F: Prescription for Nutritional Healing. 3rd ed. New York, NY: Penguin Putnam, 2000. http://www.penguinputnam.com
  2. British Heart Foundation available at http://www.bhf.org.uk
  3. Gingko biloba articles available at http://www.chiro.org/nutrition/Gingko_biloba.shtml
  4. Kansas State University Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Service publication available at http://www.oznet.ksu.edu/library/fntr2/mf2382.pdf
Glutathione

Glutathione is a protein that is produced in the liver from the amino acids cysteine, glutamic acid, and glycine. It is a powerful antioxidant that inhibits the formation of, and protects against cellular damage from, free radicals. It helps to defend the body against damage from cigarette smoking, exposure to radiation, cancer chemotherapy, and toxins such as alcohol. As a detoxifier of heavy metals and drugs, it aids in the treatment of blood and liver disorders.

Glutathione can be taken in supplement form. The production of glutathione by the body can be boosted by taking supplemental dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), a hormone; N-acetylcysteine or L-cysteine; and L-methionine. Studies suggest that this may be a better way of rais¬ing glutathione levels than taking glutathione itself.

Suggested Reading:
  1. Balch, Phyllis A and Balch, James F: Prescription for Nutritional Healing. 3rd ed. New York, NY: Penguin Putnam, 2000. http://www.penguinputnam.com
Grape Seed Extract

See under Oligomeric Proanthocyanidins in this section. (hyperlink)

Green Tea

Green tea contains polyphenols, which include phytochemicals that have antioxidant, antibacter¬ial, antiviral, and health-enhancing properties. Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), a particular type of polyphenol in green tea, have been shown to have the abiltiy to pen¬etrate the body's cells and shield DNA from hydrogen peroxide, a potent free radical. Green tea protects against cancer, lowers cholesterol levels, and reduces the clotting tendency of the blood. It also shows promise as a weight-loss aid that can promote the burning of fat and help to regulate blood sugar and insulin levels.

A recent study published in journal Chemical Research in Toxicology in 2003 suggested that green tea’s ability to fight cancer is even more potent and varied than scientists susptected. Scientists already know that green tea contains anti-oxidants which may have a protective effect against cancer. But now they have discovered that chemicals in the tea also shut down a key molecule which can play a significant role in the development of cancer. The molecule, known as the aryl hydrocarbon (AH) receptor, has the ability to activate genes – but not always in a positive way. Tobacco smoke and dioxins, in particular, disrupt the functioning of the molecule and cause it to trigger potentially harmful gene activity. The researchers, from Rochester University, found that two chemicals in green tea inhibit AH activity. Both chemicals are similar to compounds called flavonoids, which are found in broccoli, cabbage, grapes and red wine, and which are also known to help prevent cancer. The Rochester team showed that the chemicals shut down the AH receptor in cancerous mouse cells. Early results indicate the same is true in human cells.

Experts from the UK's Institute of Child Health carried out a study, which showed that green tea may ‘protect the heart’. This study was published in the journal of the Federation of Experimental Biology. The team of researchers, led by Dr Anastasis Stephanou, carried out laboratory tests on heart cells which found that a major chemical component of green tea known as epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) can reduce cell death after a heart attack or stroke. It appears to block the action of a protein called Stat 1, which becomes activated within cells after a stressful event such as a heart attack or stroke, and plays a role in inducing cell death. EGCG also appears to speed up the recovery of heart cells. This allows the tissues to recover, alleviating damage to the organs.

Scientists in Japan have found EGCG can stop HIV from binding to healthy immune cells, which is how the virus spreads. They found that EGCG stopped the virus from binding to CD4 molecules and human T cells. These are vital parts of the body's immune system. Usually HIV is able to sneak inside these cells and wipe them out. The scientists said further research is needed to see if EGCG could be used in new anti-HIV drugs. They said simply drinking green tea would not offer people protection from the virus. The concentration of EGCG used in the laboratory tests are many times over the blood concentration that could be achieved by just drinking green tea.

Another team of researchers led by Dr David Buttle from the University of Sheffield, UK, have found that two compounds found in green tea, EGCG (epigallocatchin gallate) and ECG (epicatechin gallate) can help prevent osteoarthritis by blocking the enzyme that destroys cartilage. He said that one of the compounds EGCG had been shown specifically to protect the cartilage. "We have shown that EGCG protects cartilage destruction in test-tube models of cartilage loss that mimic what happens in the arthritic joint, and work by others suggests that EGCG reduces joint swelling and pain. Green tea should be drunk as a prophylactic to prevent disease. If you have fairly severe joint damage it may be too late to do anything about it, but if you spend decades of your life drinking green tea in the end it may be beneficial."

Suggested Reading:
  1. Balch, Phyllis A and Balch, James F: Prescription for Nutritional Healing. 3rd ed. New York, NY: Penguin Putnam, 2000. http://www.penguinputnam.com
  2. BBC News: Green tea ‘can block cancer’. Available at http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/3125469.stm
  3. BBC News: Green tea ‘may protect the heart’. Available at http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/4298403.stm
  4. BBC News: Green tea extract may fight HIV. Available at http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/3257237.stm
  5. BBC News: Green tea could cut arthritis risk. Available at http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/2756635.stm
  6. Oguni, Otaro. Green tea and human health. Available at http://www.daisan.co.jp/health.htm
Melatonin

Melatonin is secreted by the pineal gland in the brain and is important in the regulation of many hormones in the body. Among its key roles, melatonin controls the body's circadian rhythm, an internal 24-hour time-keeping system that plays an important role in when we fall asleep and when we wake up. Darkness stimulates the release of melatonin and light suppresses its activity. Normal melatonin cycles are disrupted when we are exposed to excessive light in the evening or too little light during the daytime. For example, jet lag, shift work, and poor vision can disrupt melatonin cycles. In addition, some experts claim that exposure to low-frequency electromagnetic fields (as is common in household appliances) may disrupt normal cycles and production of melatonin.

Melatonin is also one of the hormones that controls the timing and release of female reproductive hormones. As a result, melatonin helps determine when menstruation begins, the frequency and duration of menstrual cycles, and when menstruation ends (menopause). Many researchers also believe that levels of melatonin in the body are related to the aging process. For example, young children have the highest levels of nighttime melatonin and these levels are thought to diminish progressively with age. This decline likely contributes to why many older adults suffer from disrupted sleep patterns and tend to go to bed earlier and wake up earlier in the morning than when they were younger. However, emerging research is bringing the idea of diminished melatonin levels in the elderly into some question. Therefore, those considering use of this supplement should first talk to their healthcare provider about having blood levels of melatonin checked.

In addition to its hormone actions, melatonin also has strong antioxidant properties and preliminary evidence suggests that it may help strengthen the immune system. Because melatonin is a potent hormone, it's advisable to check with a healthcare provider before using it as an antioxidant supplement.

The hormone melatonin is an efficient free radical scav¬enger and singlet oxygen quencher. Singlet oxygen is an "excited" oxygen molecule whose excessive discharge of energy causes damage to other body molecules. While most antioxidants work only in certain parts of certain cells, melatonin can permeate any cell in any part of the body. More important, melatonin is one of the few antioxidants that can penetrate the mitochondria, the cells' "power plants," which produce energy. Melatonin does seem to protect the mitochondria from free radical damage. In laboratory experiments, melatonin supplementation has been found to extend the lifespan of mice. Other non-human lab¬oratory studies have shown that supplemental melatonin can inhibit cancer growth, help modulate the immune system, and protect against degenerative diseases. Melatonin also stimulates the enzyme glutathione peroxidase, another antioxidant.

Suggested Reading:
  1. Balch, Phyllis A and Balch, James F: Prescription for Nutritional Healing. 3rd ed. New York, NY: Penguin Putnam, 2000. http://www.penguinputnam.com
  2. University of Maryland Medical Center http://www.umm.edu/../Melatonincs.html
Methionine

A unique amino acid, methionine neutralizes hydroxyl radicals, one of the most dangerous types of free radicals. Most often a byproduct of reactions between heavy metals and less toxic free radicals, hydroxyl radicals can be formed also during strenuous exercise or exposure to high levels of ra¬diation, and can damage any type of body tissue.

Suggested Reading:
  1. Balch, Phyllis A and Balch, James F: Prescription for Nutritional Healing. 3rd ed. New York, NY: Penguin Putnam, 2000. http://www.penguinputnam.com
N-Acetylcysteine (NAC)

The sulfur-containing amino acid cysteine is needed to pro¬duce the free radical fighter glutathione and to help maintain it at adequate levels in the cells. N-acetylcysteine (NAC) is a more stable form of cysteine that can be taken in supplement form. NAC is used by the liver and the lymphocytes to detox¬ify chemicals and other poisons. It is a powerful detoxifier of alcohol, tobacco smoke, and environmental pollutants, all of which are immune suppressors. Taking supplemental NAC can boost the levels of protective enzymes in the body, thus slowing some of the cellular damage that is char¬acteristic of aging. NAC supplementation may also decrease both the frequency and duration of infectious diseases. It has been used to treat AIDS and chronic bronchitis. People with diabetes should not take supplemental NAC without first consulting a health care provider, as it can interfere with the effectiveness of insulin.

Suggested Reading:
  1. Balch, Phyllis A and Balch, James F: Prescription for Nutritional Healing. 3rd ed. New York, NY: Penguin Putnam, 2000. http://www.penguinputnam.com
Nicotinamide Adenine Dinucleotide (NADH)

Also known as coenzyme 1, nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide with high-energy hydrogen, or NADH, is the "spark" that ignites energy production in the body's cells. NADH's high antioxidant capacity derives from its ability to reduce levels of substances. NADH plays a central role in DNA repair and maintenance, and in the cellular immune defense system. Studies report that NADH also can inhibit the auto-oxidation of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which causes the release of toxic chemicals that may damage sensitive parts of the brain.

Suggested Reading:
  1. Balch, Phyllis A and Balch, James F: Prescription for Nutritional Healing. 3rd ed. New York, NY: Penguin Putnam, 2000. http://www.penguinputnam.com
Oligomeric Proanthocyanidins

Oligomeric proanthocyanidins (OPCs) are naturally occur¬ring substances present in a variety of food and botanical sources. They are unique phytochemicals known as flavonoids that have powerful antioxidant capabilities. OPCs are highly water soluble, so the body is able to absorb them rapidly. Clinical tests suggest that OPCs may be as much as fifty times more potent than vitamin E and twenty times more potent than vitamin C in terms of bioavailable anti-oxidant activity. What's more, OPCs work with the antioxidant glutathione to recycle and restore oxidized vitamin C, thus increasing the vitamin's effectiveness. Because they are able to cross the blood-brain barrier, OPCs can protect the brain and spinal nerves against free radical damage. In addition to their antioxidant activity, OPCs protect the liver from damage caused by toxic doses of acetaminophen, a non-prescription pain reliever; they strengthen and repair connective tissue, including that of the cardiovascular system; and they support the immune system and slow aging. They also moderate allergic and inflammatory responses by reducing histamine production. OPCs are found throughout plant life; however, the two main sources are pine bark extract (Pycnogenol), produced from the French maritime pine tree, and grape seed extract, made from the seeds of the wine grape (Vitis vinifera). Pyc¬nogenol was the first source of OPCs discovered, and the process for extracting it was patented in the 1950s. Pyc¬nogenol is a trademarked name for pine bark extract, not a generic term for OPCs from other sources.

Suggested Reading:
  1. Balch, Phyllis A and Balch, James F: Prescription for Nutritional Healing. 3rd ed. New York, NY: Penguin Putnam, 2000. http://www.penguinputnam.com
Pycnogenol

Pycnogenol® is the extract from the bark of the French maritime pine tree which grows in Les Landes in south-west France. See under Oligomeric Proanthocyanidins in this section. (hyperlink to above)

Suggested Reading:
  1. Pycnogenol website. Available at http://pycnogenol.com
Selenium

Selenium is an essential trace mineral that functions as an antioxidant in partnership with vitamin E to protect tissues and cell membranes. Among other things, it increases an¬tioxidant enzyme levels in cells. Selenium is also an integral component of the antioxidant enzyme glutathione peroxidase (each molecule of this enzyme contains four atoms of selenium). Glutathione peroxidase targets harmful hydrogen peroxide in the body and converts it into water, it is a particularly important guardian of blood cells and of the heart, liver, and lungs. The richest food sources of selenium are organ meats and seafood, followed by muscle meats. In general, there is wide variation in the selenium content of plants and grains because plants do not appear to require selenium. Thus, the incorporation of selenium into plant proteins is dependent only on soil selenium content. Brazil nuts grown in areas of Brazil with selenium-rich soil may provide more than 100 mcg of selenium in one nut, while those grown in selenium-poor soil may provide 10 times less. Use caution when taking supplemental selenium. Amounts higher than 1,000 micrograms (1 milligram) daily may be toxic.

Suggested Reading:
  1. Balch, Phyllis A and Balch, James F: Prescription for Nutritional Healing. 3rd ed. New York, NY: Penguin Putnam, 2000. http://www.penguinputnam.com
  2. The Linus Pauling Institute’s Micronutrient Information Center. Available at http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/../selenium/index.html
Silymarin

Extracted from the seeds of the herb milk thistle, silymarin has been used for centuries to treat liver disease. The active ingredients in milk thistle are several types of flavonoids (powerful antioxidants), known collectively as silymarin. Silymarin guards the liver from oxidative damage. It also protects the liver from toxins, drugs, and the effects of alcohol, and promotes the growth of new liver cells. In addition, silymarin increases levels of glutathione, a potent antioxidant enzyme produced in the liver.

Suggested Reading:
  1. Balch, Phyllis A and Balch, James F: Prescription for Nutritional Healing. 3rd ed. New York, NY: Penguin Putnam, 2000. http://www.penguinputnam.com
Superoxide Dismutase

Superoxide dismutase (SOD) is an enzyme. SOD revitalizes cells and reduces the rate of cell destruction. It neutralizes the most common, and possibly the most dangerous, free radicals—superoxide radicals. Superoxide radicals instigate the breakdown of synovial fluid, the lubricant for the body's joints. This leads to friction and, ultimately, inflammation. SOD works synergistically with the enzyme catalase, which is abundant throughout the body. Catalase removes hydrogen peroxide byproducts created by SOD reactions.

SOD also aids in the body's utilization of zinc, copper, and manganese. Its levels tend to decline with age, while free radical production increases. Its potential as an anti-aging treatment is currently being explored.

Suggested Reading:
  1. Balch, Phyllis A and Balch, James F: Prescription for Nutritional Healing. 3rd ed. New York, NY: Penguin Putnam, 2000. http://www.penguinputnam.com
Vitamin A and the Carotenoids

A class of phytochemicals, carotenoids are fat-soluble pigments found in yellow, red, green, and orange vegetables and fruits. They are a potent family of antioxidants that include alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein, and zeaxanthin. Of the more than 500 carotenoids found in na¬ture, about 50 can be converted into vitamin A in the body.

Carotenoids quench singlet oxygen, which is not, chemically speaking, a free radical, but is nevertheless highly reactive and can damage body molecules. Carotenoids also act as anticancer agents, decrease the risk of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration, and inhibit heart disease. Studies have shown that carotenoids found in tomato juice (lycopene), carrots (alpha- and beta-carotene) and spinach (lutein) may help to protect against cancer by reducing oxidative and other damage to DNA.

Suggested Reading:
  1. Balch, Phyllis A and Balch, James F: Prescription for Nutritional Healing. 3rd ed. New York, NY: Penguin Putnam, 2000. http://www.penguinputnam.com
Vitamin C

Vitamin C is a very powerful antioxidant that also recharges other antioxidants, such as vitamin E, to keep them potent. Its water solubility makes it an efficient free radical scavenger in body fluids. Some studies have shown that vitamin C is the first line of antioxidant defense in plasma against many different kinds of free radicals. The cells of the brain and spinal cord, which frequently incur free radical damage, can be protected by significant amounts of vitamin C. This vitamin also guards against atherosclerosis by preventing damage to artery walls. Vitamin C acts as a more potent free radical scavenger in the presence of the phytochemical hesperidin.

Suggested Reading:
  1. Balch, Phyllis A and Balch, James F: Prescription for Nutritional Healing. 3rd ed. New York, NY: Penguin Putnam, 2000. http://www.penguinputnam.com
Vitamin E

Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that prevents the oxi¬dation of lipids (fats). Fat oxidation has been implicated in the process that leads to atherosclerosis. Vitamin E is fat soluble and, since cell membranes are composed of lipids, it effectively prevents the cells' protective coatings from becoming rancid as a result of the assault of free radicals. Vitamin E also improves oxygen utilization, enhances im¬mune response, plays a role in the prevention of cataracts caused by free radical damage, and may reduce the risk of coronary artery disease.

The natural form of vitamin E (d-alpha tocopherol) is superior to the synthetic version (dl-alpha tocopherol). New evidence suggests that zinc is needed to maintain normal blood concentrations of vitamin E. Selenium enhances vitamin E uptake. These two nutrients work together in the body.

Suggested Reading:
  1. Balch, Phyllis A and Balch, James F: Prescription for Nutritional Healing. 3rd ed. New York, NY: Penguin Putnam, 2000. http://www.penguinputnam.com
Zinc

Zinc's main antioxidant function is in the prevention of fat oxidation. In addition, it is a constituent of the antioxidant enzyme superoxide dismutase (SOD). Zinc is also needed for proper maintenance of vitamin E levels in the blood and aids in the absorption of vitamin A.

Suggested Reading:
  1. Balch, Phyllis A and Balch, James F: Prescription for Nutritional Healing. 3rd ed. New York, NY: Penguin Putnam, 2000. http://www.penguinputnam.com
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