Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Radicals that cause disease

THERE is a "paradox" about oxygen in that we cannot live without oxygen, yet it is dangerous to our existence. A war is being waged within every cell of your body. It is called oxidative stress (refers to a condition where antioxidants in the body cannot cope with free radicals generated) and is believed to be the root cause of more than 60 degenerative diseases, from arthritis to cancer, heart disease, premature ageing and even the breakdown of your immune system.

The same process that causes iron to rust and cut apples to turn brown is going on in every living cell in your body. We
are essentially rusting inside and are not even aware it is happening. We must gain an understanding of this process and learn how to protect ourselves against its destruction.

Free radicals In the process of using oxygen for the production of energy in the cell, free radicals are created. Free radicals are also formed in the body when you inhale smog, house cleaning chemicals and cigarette smoke, consume polluted drinking water and drugs. Exercise, exposure to sunlight, illnesses, high blood sugar - also contribute to production of free radicals.

Bruce Ames, a research scientist at University of California-Berkeley estimates that each cell in the human body suffers
about 10,000 "hits" per day from free radicals, The extent of the damage is impressive: free radicals destroy enzymes, pro-
teins, fat compounds, DNA molecules, and cell membranes and structures - altering the way cells code genetic material.

"In fact," says biochemist and antioxidant researcher Richard A. Passwater, "free radicals can also activate the socalled cancer genes, also known as oncogenes, and suppress the immune system."

Free radical damage has a cumulative effect that interferes with cellular function, bogs down chemical reactions and neurological communications between cells, and speeds the growth of mutant cells and degenerative diseases like cancer, heart disease, and arthritis. The highly reactive free radicals are also implicated in other diseases including diabetes, Alzheimer's, cataracts and macular degeneration.

The good thing is that we are not completely powerless. Antioxidant supplements can help protect us from the damage of free radical "bombardment".

We have our own army of defence against free radicals and they are called antioxidants. Antioxidants have the ability to
render the free radicals harmless. As long as there are adequate amounts of antioxidants within our bodies to handle the free
radicals produced within the cell there is no damage to surrounding tissues.

The body has the ability to make some of its own antioxidants, five of which are superoxide dismutase (SOD), catalase,alpha lipoic acid, coenzyme Q10 and glutathione peroxidase, but the body may not be able to produce enough antioxidants on its own to neutralise all the free radicals that are produced.

Although many antioxidants can be obtained from food sources, it is difficult to get enough of them to hold back free radicals constantly generated in our polluted environment. That is why we need to get the rest of the antioxidants from

* Primary antioxidants

Beta carotene - is a powerful free radical scavenger that attacks and neutralises the singlet oxygen, a dangerous free radical that affects our eyes, skin and lungs.

Vitamin C - is a powerful antioxidant that helps minimise free radical damage in the watery regions of the body, such as
blood plasma, lung fluid, eye fluid, as well as in between cells. It also helps protect the nervous system from free radical
attacks. Another amazing function of vitamin C is that it helps to recycle vitamin E to keep it actively fighting free radicals.

Vitamin E - is a potent antioxidant that prevents the oxidation of lipids (fats) in cell membranes, which strengthens the
outer cell layers against free radical attacks. Vitamin E works best in the presence of selenium, and helps protect vita-
min A. Research shows that vitamin E stimulates the immune system, improves the circulatory system and oxygen absorption, fights cancer, and has a role in preventing cataracts. It also helps keep low density lipoprotein (LDL) from the oxidation that creates arterial plaque.

* Antioxidant support nutrients

These nutrients are not antioxidants themselves but are essential components of glutathione and superoxide dismutase (SOD) which are antioxidant enzymes made by the body.

Selenium - is a trace mineral that synergises well with vitamin E and is the key component in the powerful glutathione-based antioxidant enzymes that convert hydrogen peroxide free radical into water.

Zinc - has antioxidant properties that protects the body. Zinc is required to maintain effective levels of vitamin E and
A. It is also the key ingredient in the very important antioxidant enzyme called superoxide dismutase (SOD).

Copper and manganese - are both essential components of superoxide dismutase (SOD) that neutralises the most dangerous free radical in the body - superoxide.

* Targeted antioxidants

Alpha lipoic acid (ideal antioxidant) - Dr Lester Packer, professor of the University of California, Berkeley, Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, is among the world's leading antioxidant researchers, and perhaps the foremost researcher on
alpha lipoic acid. He has described alpha lipoic acid as very close to an ideal antioxidant.

Alpha lipoic acid works in both the watery as well as fatty regions of the cells. It also has the ability to regenerate oxidised vitamin E and C, CoQ10, glutathione and even alpha lipoic acid itself. It raises " blood levels of glutathione - nature's most powerfulantioxidant - better than any other substance known. It improves insulin sensitivity and improves glucose metabolism. Alpha lipoic acid has been used widely in Germany for over 30 years for treatment of symptoms associated
with diabetes such as neuropathy and retinopathy.

Grape seed standardised extract (super antioxidant) - The active ingredients found here are oligomeric proanthocyanidines (OPCs). Research indicates that OPCs may be 20-50 times more potent as an antioxidant than vitamin C and E. Because they bond to collagen, protecting against free radicals, OPCs keep joints and skin supple, promoting a youthful appearance. They also strengthen capillaries, improve circulation, reduce joint pain, and protect nerve tissue. OPCs can also help convert oxidised vitamin C back to its active form.

The body produces many species of flee radicals - singlet oxygen, superoxides, hydroxyl, hydrogen peroxide, peroxyl and
so on, and almost all are damaging to the body. Different antioxidants neutralise different species of free radicals. Hence when it comes to antioxidant supplementation, it makes sense to take a supplement that contains a variety of antioxidants.

Make sure that the ingredients listed are in adequate amounts thus providing a wider daily protection against degenerative diseases.

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