Oxidative Stress and Free Radicals
Hardening of the arteries, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, cancer, arthritis, macular degeneration even wrinkles are just a few of “diseases of aging” that are caused in large part by what scientist call “oxidative stress”.
Indeed, this “oxidative theory of aging” is probably the most accepted theory of aging. Not that aging is not multi-factorial, mind you, but that oxidation is major factor in most “aging” and is perhaps the most studied, generally agreed upon, and proven factor related to the process we call aging.
Dr. Denham Harman, M.D. Ph.D., founder of this theory, has dubbed it the “Free Radical Theory of Aging.” You will understand why he chose that name as you read below.
Oxidation is a process of which we are all familiar. When a nail rusts, that is the effect of oxygen on iron. When a fire burns, that is a rapid, high energy effect of oxygen on organic (carbon based) materials. When you cut an apple and leave it stand exposed to oxygen, it turns “brown” on the outside. That’s oxidation.
There is a type of oxygen that “rusts”, “burns” or, “browns” the cells of our bodies, causing them, over time, to “age”. It is called “singlet oxygen”. That is because such a molecule of oxygen only has one electron orbiting its nucleus instead of the more usual two. Unfortunately, this is a very unstable situation. Singlet oxygen wants desperately to either; 1) give away its one electron, or 2) steal one from another cell. Such an unstable molecule is called a FREE RADICAL.
In so doing these free radicals turn the molecules they add or steal electrons from into free radicals as well. This creates what is called a “free radical cascade”. This is a chain reaction, not terribly unlike setting off one mouse trap baited with a ping pong ball in a room loaded wall to wall with unsprung mouse traps baited with ping pong balls. Soon a chain reaction would occur and the whole room of mouse traps would be set off.
Anti-Oxidants to the Rescue
So why doesn’t this happen in our bodies causing us the “age” before we are even grown? Well, these free radicals that oxidize, and thus slowly ruin, our cells, are “quenched” by anti-oxidants.
A good example of this is a kitchen trick most any cook knows. Let’s say your are making a guacamole, but you want it to stay green and not turn brown. What do you do? You add lemon and “voila!” your avocado dip does not turn brown. Why? Because lemon is loaded with ANTIOXIDANTS like Vitamin C, bioflavonoids, and lemonine.
Antioxidants QUENCH free radicals. They either donate or take a single electron, thus “quenching” the free radical, making it harmless.
The body makes its own free radical quenching enzymes. Two common ones are super-oxide-dismutase, AKA SOD for short and catalase. These enymatic free radical destroying enzymes are generally dependant on the availability of trace minerals like selenium, zinc, copper and manganese.
The diet supplies the rest of the antioxidants. Vitamins A, C, E are well known. Niacin, (Vit. B3) is an antioxidant. Alpha Lipoic Acid, Co Enzyme Q10, oligoproanthocyanides (OPC’s from grape seed), quercitin, bioflavonoids, and the tocotrionols (a form of Vit. E) are less well known, but very powerful. The carotinoids, lycopene, lutein, and zeaaxanthin are a few of the 100’s of phytochemical antioxidants which help give color to our fruits and vegetables and are their antioxidants protectors. And we must not forget the herbs like gingko, rosemary, thyme, tumeric, and green tea.
Optimizing Your Antioxidant Protection: The FREE RADICAL/ANTIOXIDANT HOME TEST
Therefore, by maintaining an optimal level of anti- oxidants, one slows as much as presently possible the aging effects of free radicals. How is it possible for the average person to do this? Below is a reasonable, step by step approach.
First of all, it important to know that you can measure your antioxidant status. And although rather sophisticated means are available to the anti-aging specialist, a simple do-it-yourself at home urine test is now available. Taking your first morning urine, and using this very simple kit, it is very easy to get a free radical “score”. These scores will show that your free radical levels are very high, high, optimal, or too low. (Yes, free radicals are not always harmful and can be too low; they’re used by the immune system to destroy many invading microorganisms.)
So your first job is to measure your current level of free radical spillover in your morning urine. Most of you will be in the “too high” range.
To bring your free radical score down, you begin by minimizing your exposure to free radicals. Turning food into energy is the major producer of free radicals, so not overeating is always a first step in any anti-aging and wellness program. Avoid rancid (oxidized) fats, especially deep fried foods.
Next minimize exposure to pollutants, cigarette smoke, sun and x-ray radiation. (Yes, what sun does to skin is oxidize it. And one of the most interesting facts about free radicals is that they cause the same reactions within cells that occur during exposure to radiation. The results of these reactions are indistinguishable from those of natural aging.)
Even over-exercising will cause a flood of free radicals.
Surprisingly, too much iron in the diet is a major free radical producer!
Next, eat a nutrient dense varied diet, being sure to eat 2-4 servings of fruits and 3-5 servings of vegetables a day. Eat ALL the colors, and the deeper the better. Include a variety of raw nuts and seeds, beans and whole grains in your diet. Include herbs, spices, herbal and green teas.
Then take a full spectrum mega multi-vitamin/mineral/ phytonutrient supplement. It should have at least 1000 mg of Vit C and 100 IU Vit E, 100 mg bioflavonoids, 25 mg quercetin, 3 mg lycopene, 100 mcg leutien, 100 mcg zeaxanthin, 15000 Vit A as mixed carotinoids (not just beta-carotene), 200 mg selenium, 15 mg of zinc and 5 mg of manganese. IT SHOULD HAVE NO IRON! (Those who need iron should take it away from a true multi-mineral as it will interfere with the absorption of iron.)
IF you can not always get 5-9 servings of fruits and vegetables into your diet, (and 9 of 10 Americans don’t!) add a powdered fruit and vegetable concentrate to your supplementation program.
Then re-take your Free Radical morning urine test.
If it is now optimal, great!
If not, then add a antioxidant formula that supplements extra Vit A* (as carotinoids), C and E and some of the above herbs, grape skins, spices, and plant anti-oxidants like rosemary, green tea, tumeric, milk thistle. (Women in their child bearing years should not take more than 5000 of Vitamin A. This does NOT include betacarotene.)
If you are Diabetic or have liver disease, consider Alpha Lipoic Acid. (APA re-cycles anti-oxidants).
If high blood pressure, heart disease, gum disease, smoke (first or second or hand) or taking “statin” drugs for high blood pressure, consider Co-Q 10.
If memory, mood or erectile function problems and over 50, consider Ginkgo B.
If you have vision problems, consider bilberry, leutein, zeaxanthin, and extra Vit C and E.
If your diet is low in protein, or absorption is poor due to disease, age and or poor dentition, consider whey with glutamine. This is needed to make the major antioxidant glutathione. Glutathione levels are so important that such levels are considered a major biomarker of biological age.
Then simply re-measure your morning urine. Keep at it until you get the most optimal score you can without going overboard. (Remember, you can have too few free radicals, and your urine test will tell you.)
As we age, reaching optimal may be impossible. Generally, the older you are the more antioxidant protection you need. Conversely, the major emphasis of anti-aging programs before 40 is NOT hormone enhancement, but anti-oxidant optimization!
These free radical test kits come 4 in a kit. Considering the importance of anti-oxidants protection in anti-aging and the amount of money you will invest in supplements over the decades, making sure that you are actually getting the job done, without actually doing harm with too many supplements, is to pound wise as compared to penny foolish.
After skin cancer, people realize the true worth of their health. Some have to use skin care products for the rest of their lives, while they rest have to undergo cosmetic surgery multiple times. In bally total fitness comes after this issue is taken care of.