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Nutrients That Can Help Slow Aging

By Getty Ambau

Antioxidants

Antioxidants are substances that help us defend our bodies against those dangerous
freaks of nature called free radicals. Through our body's manufacture of its own
antioxidant enzymes and by the food we eat, we can help shield our tissues and
organs from free radical damage. The two most powerful antioxidant enzymes are
Superoxide Dismutase (SOD) and glutathione peroxidase. These enzymes are
manufactured by the body to promote good health.

Superoxide dismutase specifically works to help fight oxygen free radicals. Our body
burns the food we eat by using oxygen through a process called metabolism. During
this process, many oxygen free radicals are produced, the most common one being
the superoxide free radical. The SOD helps neutralize this free radical before it
attacks tissues and begins a chain reaction.

What is interesting is that there are two types of SOD--one that exists inside the
mitochondria of the cell, the other outside, but within the cell. The one inside the
mitochondria has manganese as its component, and the one outside has zinc and
copper in its structure. A small deficiency in any of these elements may greatly affect
the SOD activity in our body. Similarly, catalase is an antioxidant enzyme that is
formed with and activated by iron. Its function is primarily to neutralize the hydrogen
peroxides.

From our nutrition product line, please refer to the antioxidant formulations that
contain these specific minerals. These chelated minerals are generally better
absorbed than the none-chelated minerals. The minerals (zinc, copper and
manganese)found in these products will aid the body to manufacture its own SOD
dependably.

The other antioxidant enzyme, glutathione peroxidase, is a very versatile molecule


involved in a variety of activities in the body. This enzyme promotes the
effectiveness of vitamin C and vitamin E and enhances the immune system.
Glutathione peroxidase can also help neutralize the unhealthy effects of heavy
metals such as cadmium, mercury, lead and aluminum. It saves cells from oxidation.
Both white and red blood cells depend on this enzyme for their proper functioning.
The power behind glutathione per oxidase comes from the mineral selenium, which is
one of the major components of the enzyme.

Food-Derived Antioxidants

There are many well documented antioxidants obtained from the food you eat. Some
of the prominent ones are vitamins beta-carotene, C, E; minerals such as selenium;
copper, zinc, manganese and iron; glutathione; and the amino acids, cysteine
methionine and lysine. Recently a new class of compounds called phytochemicals
have been added to the list. You find these mainly green, red and yellow vegetables
as well as herbs. Each one of these nutrients has many benefits to our health besides
their role as antioxidants. Let's look it each one separately.

Beta-Carotene--Precursor of Vitamin A

"Eat your carrots. They can help you see better at night." Perhaps you heard your
mother chirp this when you were little. And you from that time on have associated
the absence of carrots in your diet with night blindness. You try to include a few
sticks of these tuberous vegetables whenever you get a chance.

Perhaps you now know that carrots are good for you because they contain a
substance known as beta-carotene. It is beta-carotene that converts to vitamin A in
the body and helps the visual purple--the pigment in the retina that enables your
eyes to quickly adapt when you go from light to darkness. For a long time, scientists
had associated vitamin A with night vision. It is now known, however, to have many
different functions and benefits for the human body.

One of these functions is in fighting free radicals. In the body the two most common
free radicals are those that form from oxygen molecules and polyunsaturated fatty
acids (PUFAs). PUFAs are an integral part of the cell membrane, body fat and some
of the food you eat. Beta-carotene is known to be an excellent scavenger of the
PUFA-generated and singlet oxygen free radicals. Singlet oxygen radical is one of the
most damaging of the oxygen radicals in the body.

Vitamin C

Unlike vitamins A and E (the fat-soluble antioxidants), vitamin C has the distinct
advantage of being water soluble. Since nearly two-thirds of our bodies are water, it
means this vitamin can go just about anywhere in the body. As an antioxidant, it can
travel freely in the blood stream and aid the cells and tissues from the effects of free
radicals.

Vitamin C, in effect, acts as your body's sacrificial lamb. A vitamin C molecule gives
up one of its electrons to a free radical substance and, in so doing, it self-destructs.
This battle between vitamin C and free radicals takes place thousands, if not millions,
of times a second (depending on the number of free radicals present in your body
and the vitamin C level in your bloodstream).

Vitamin E

Vitamin E, by itself or in conjunction with selenium, helps fight free radicals. This
vitamin is particularly good at minimizing the destruction of cellular membranes. A
significant portion of the myelin sheath that covers the nerve axons and the cell
membrane is made from polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA's), which, as we
mentioned before, are highly vulnerable to free radical attacks.

Vitamin E is one of the few fat soluble vitamins, and lodges itself in the membranes
of the cells and helps fight the free radicals that may be found here.

The Mineral Antioxidants

The antioxidant property of the minerals copper, zinc, manganese, iron and selenium
has largely to do to their function as part of the enzymes systems discussed earlier.
Copper, zinc and manganese are part of the two superoxide dismutases that
neutralize the superoxide free radical produced from the consumption of oxygen.
Iron and selenium, as partners of catalase and glutathone peroxidase, respectively,
help in destroying the hydrogen peroxide free radicals as well as free radicals
generated from the breakdown of fats. Of course, these minerals have many other
functions and benefits to the body besides their antioxidant properties.

Cysteine, Glutathione, Methionine and Lysine

Besides the vitamins and the mineral selenium, there is a group of amino acids that
are well known antioxidants. Glutathione is a small peptide molecule consisting of
glutamic acid, cysteine and glycine.

Glutathione helps in the synthesis of the enzyme glutathione peroxidase. This


enzyme, as was discussed earlier, has many benefits in your body. Glutathione, in
collaboration with selenium, helps fight free radicals and enhance the health-giving
properties of vitamins E and C. Glutathione peroxidase also helps in the production
and fortification of immune cells.

Cysteine and methionine are the two sulfur-containing amino acids that are known to
be good antioxidants.

Herbal Antioxidants

Over the past few years, plant-derived substances called phytochemicals or


phytonutrients have been toted, after vitamins as the next group of subtances that
may have many beneficial properties in our health. These compounds, which are
extracted from the green, red, blue, black and yellow of vegetables and fruits, are
not exactly nutrients (at least so far as we know), in the sense that they don't get
involved in energy production or in repairing and building of tissues, but they
apparently have many influences in the health and wellness of our bodies. One of
these influences is in serving as antioxidants. The other is by interacting or
interfering with certain enzymes and substances in our tissues in ways that enhance
and maintain the health and well-being of our bodies.

Some of these compounds are sulforaphane (from broccoli), lycopene (from


tomatoes), lutein (from alfalfa), allylic sulfides (from garlic), genistein (from
soybeans) and capsaicin (from red peppers). There are many other compounds
found in different herbs and spices that have been shown to have beneficial
properties in our bodies.

From our product line please refer to the phytoantioxidants to take advantage of all
the beneficial properties of these incredible class of substances. Some of the
products on this line also contain the classic antioxidants: vitamins A, E and C and
selenium, plus a number of other vitamins and minerals. The amino acid antioxidants
(mentioned previously) are found in larger quantities our protein-based products.
You should also be able to obtain these nutrients from your normal protein foods.
What most people don't have enough of are the other antioxidants.

If you notice, in a well-formulated multi-vitamin supplement all antioxidant vitamins,


minerals and phytonutrients appear together. There are reasons for this:

1. the antioxidants do not necessarily have the same function; that is to say,
certain antioxidants are more effective in neutralizing certain types of free
radicals than others. For example, beta-carotene and selenium (as part of the
enzyme glutathion peroxidase) are more powerful neutralizers of the singlet
oxygen free radicals. This means, for instance, that during a strenuous
physical exertion, like exercise or physical labor, you tend to use up higher
volume of oxygen, which consequently increases the metabolic activities of
your cells and the production of the singlet oxygen free radicals. Taking the
recommended amounts of these nutrients prior to your physical activity will
thus minimize the damage these radicals can cause.

Vitamin E and selenium, on the other hand, are great at helping minimize fat
peroxidation. Fat peroxidation (the rupturing of fat molecules leading to the
formation of free radicals) can be initiated by a number agents, including
radiation, toxic metals and chemicals, singlet oxygen free radicals and a
number of other substances. Tissues that are highly vulnerable to some of
these agents are the lungs, the digestive tract and the liver.

As you must know, the lungs and the digestive tract are the primary contacts
of everything that enters the body. These include the various chemicals and
pollutants that come along with food, water and air we consume. The liver,
besides serving as main distribution center, is also the place where many of
the body's toxins accumulate. Consequently, these three organs take the
brunt of many of the effects posed by substances that come in from outside
as well as by those generated from within the body. The vitamins E and C and
the mineral selenium can be excellent protectors of these tissues.

The phytoantioxidants also have their own special functions in the body.
Some of them activate enzymes that are intimately involved in the health and
proper function of the cell. Hence, for instance, while sulforaphane induces
the synthesis of enzymes that are closely involved with the proper function of
the cells, others like coumaric acid and cholorogenic acid help remove
unfriendly substances from the them. There are also phytoantioxidants
involved in the health of certain tissues of the body.

For example, the anthocyanosides (in billberry) may help with the health of
the retina, and leucoanthocyanin (in grape seed extract) can be important for
the well being of the blood capillaries. Likewise, the flavonoid molecules found
in ginkgo biloba can have important role in the health and proper function of
the brain and circulatory system.

2. When antioxidants are present together, besides enhancing the function of


your tissues, they protect one another and other nutrients from the
destructive effects of the free radicals. For instance, vitamin A protects
vitamin C, which, in turn, protects vitamins A and E and some of the B
complex vitamins from free radicals or other oxidative process. Vitamin E,
similarly, can serve as a "bodyguard" for vitamins C, D, and F* and the B
complex vitamins.

As you can see, you should have not only high concentrations of the
antioxidants in your tissues, but also all of them together so that each one
will adequately complete its specific job, without getting destroyed before it
reaches its destination µusually the cells. As an illustration, think of military
airplanes that are on a bombing mission. Unless these planes are adequately
shielded from enemy air fire by escorting aircraft, they may never reach their
target.

Inside your body, at a microcosmic level, a raging battle goes on between the
free radicals and antioxidants. As in the real world, who wins this battle
depends on the number and strength of the forces involved.