So you're graying at the temples,
the laugh lines are getting a little deeper, and the inevitable signs of
aging are beginning to show. Have you simply resigned yourself to getting
older-looking and older-feeling? Well, do not despair; antioxidant therapy
may hold the key to a younger, more healthy you.
First, let's demystify all the jargon around this fountain of youth.
What is an antioxidant? What does it have to do with youthfulness? Basically
the word means a substance which is "against oxidation." Oxidation
is what occurs when steel rusts, or oil becomes rancid, or human cells
degrade. (In biochemical terms, oxidation means loss of an electron.)
Cellular respiration, or metabolism, the way energy is produced in our
bodies, involves many oxidative reactions and is an event which renders
electrically charged particles called free radicals. These unstable molecules
are usually scavenged and transformed by other biologically active molecules
called free radical scavengers. If the body's innate free radical scavengers
cannot keep up with a higher rate of oxidative damage, rapid aging occurs,
cells become damaged, and can even mutate into abnormal cells. Antioxidant
vitamins and minerals help to preserve cellular functioning and aid the
body in its constant battle against oxidation.
So let's explore the antioxidants. An easy mnemonic to learn the basic
nutrient antioxidants is "ACES." Vitamins A, C, E, and
the mineral Selenium. It is vitally important to incorporate these nutrients
into your diet to maintain high level wellness and youthfulness.
(A) Vitamin A is a fat soluble vitamin that is essential for healthy
skin, teeth, bones, hair, eyes, soft tissues, the lining of many organs
such as the lungs, bladder, etc., and a functioning immune system. Inadequate
levels of vitamin A can result in rough dry skin and/or other skin problems
such as acne and blemishes, itching, burning eyes, sties in the eyes,
allergies, sinus trouble, susceptibility to colds and infections, appetite
loss, dry hair, fatigue, insomnia, and night blindness (vitamin A is necessary
for visual purple production, which facilitates night vision). Severe
deficiency of vitamin A can result in total blindness, and skin diseases
such as hyperkeratosis (bumpy goose flesh-like skin) and ichthyosis (fish
Some lifestyle habits or conditions which may require supplementation
with vitamin A include alcohol and coffee consumption, tobacco and sugar
usage, excessive laxative use, excessive iron intake, liver disease, chronic
infections, and diabetes. Even things such as pollution, stress, and prolonged
exposure to cold weather can deplete us of vitamin A.
Sources of vitamins A are carrots, and all green and yellow fruits and
vegetables, fish and fish liver oil, alfalfa, eggs, cheese, kale, liver,
most milk products and spirulina. You can safely take up to 50,000 IU
of vitamin A per day. Smokers or those with a chronic illness may need
even more to maintain a healthy immune system. You would need to eat five
large carrots, four cups of spinach, or a half pound of liver every day
to get this dosage. But a reasonable dose to prevent any deficiency disease
would be approximately 5,000 IU. So if you donít think you are getting
this minimum amount in your diet, it would be wise to supplement with
either Beta-carotene, mixed carotenoids, both converted by the body into
vitamin A, or straight vitamin A every day to ensure an adequate supply.
Because vitamin A is a fat soluble vitamin, it is stored in the body,
therefore there is a potential for toxicity. Toxicity symptoms could occur
with prolonged high doses of vitamin A (usually not the carotenes, but
the fish or liver sources). Symptoms of toxicity are throbbing headaches,
hair loss, fatigue, nausea, appetite and weight loss, swelling of the
ankles, vomiting, and dry shedding skin. An excellent way to get natural
high dose carotenes is by juicing. The Juice Man is absolutely right when
he tells you about the vital fresh nutrients that you get from juicing.
Naturally fresh homemade juice is a source of not only vitamin A, and
many other vitamins, but of all the enzymes necessary to absorb the nutrients.
Freshly made juice is also extremely cleansing to the digestive tract,
and you could actually "eat" your five carrots, or four cups
of spinach by juicing them!
(C) Vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, is a water soluble vitamin and
an excellent antioxidant. It detoxifies the system, is essential in red
blood cell production, builds resistance to infections and shock, helps
to heal burns and wounds, aids absorption of iron, conserves iodine, is
essential for collagen production, bone and tooth formation, and maintains
healthy gums. Since we do not produce vitamin C, we must daily ingest
foods which contain it. A deficiency of vitamin C can cause capillary
fragility and therefore easy bruising, impaired adrenal gland function,
bleeding gums, anemia, nosebleeds, poor digestion, and weakened cartilage.
Severe deficiency of vitamin C results in the deficiency disease, scurvy.
Although the relationship between citrus fruits, ascorbic acid and scurvy
was not officially established until the twentieth century, scurvy was
first recognized in the time of the Crusades and was common in explorers
and sailors on long sea journeys when fresh fruit was unavailable. It
manifests with bleeding gums and wounds that wonít heal. The nickname
"limey" originated with British sailors because they were fed
limes, lemons and oranges to prevent scurvy.
Food sources of vitamin C are all fresh fruits and vegetables. One cup
of orange juice contains about 125 mg. of C. One cup of steamed broccoli
contains about 150 mg. and a cup of green peppers contains about 100 mg.
It would be difficult, if not nearly impossible to get even one gram of
vitamin C from your daily diet, therefore supplementation in the form
of powders, capsules or tablets is a convenient way to take it. In some
cases, if a person is very sick, IV vitamin C can be administered.
Although vitamin C is a water soluble vitamin, mega doses of the nutrient
can cause a type of toxicity which produces burning urination, loose stools,
and skin rashes. Unless prescribed otherwise by your doctor, no more than
5,000 mg. should be taken per day. Check the list of deficiency symptoms
and if you have any you should start taking vitamin C regularly to bring
your body back into balance. And remember, juicing can provide you with
all your necessary vitamins, including C, and adding a lemon or an orange
to your juice gives it a wonderful flavor.
(E) Vitamin E is a fat soluble vitamin which used internally, markedly
slows the aging process, aids in fertility, lowers cholesterol, strengthens
capillary walls, aids blood flow to the heart, prevents blood clots, is
a diuretic, protects the lungs, enhances male potency, neutralizes toxins,
maintains healthy muscles and nerves, speeds healing, and enhances the
utilization of oxygen. Externally, application of vitamin E heals burns,
scars, warts, wounds, and wrinkles. Numerous studies have been conducted
over many years, all coming to similar conclusions, that vitamin E reduces
free radical damage, prevents atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries,
improves immune function, and slows aging and aging-related problems.
Deficiency symptoms of vitamin E are dry skin, dry, brittle, or falling
hair, in men, enlarged prostate or other prostate problems, heart disease,
digestive problems, impotence, miscarriages and sterility, and muscle
weakness or wasting.
Sources of vitamin E are wheatgerm, most vegetable oils, eggs, nuts, some
fruits, dark green vegetables, organ meats like liver, and butter. Since
the advent of the processing and refining of flour, stripping all nutrients
from wheat flour except the high caloric content, heart disease has steadily
risen in our country. Unfortunately, companies have not figured out how
to replenish the essential vitamin E back into their "enriched"
product. A few B vitamins here and there are supposed to give the bleached
white substance some food value, but white flour simply has no food value
to speak of! Also, freezing and deep frying foods kills vitamin E.
One tablespoon of vegetable oil contains approximately 20 IU of vitamin
E, (IU signifies International Unitsó1 mg of tocopherol or vitamin E is
equivalent to approximately 1.5 IU). One cup of almonds contains 30 IU
(although one cup of almonds also contains about 1,000 calories and almost
all of them from fat), a quarter cup of wheat germ contains about 200
IU, a piece of liver, about 400 IU. The suggested daily therapeutic range
is from 100 to 800 IU. Because vitamin E is a fat soluble vitamin, toxicity
and adverse effects can occur at higher dosages. Those symptoms are elevated
blood pressure if starting at high doses (so 200 IU is a good starting
dose). Toxicity is rare, although caution is wise. Ask your doctor if
you are wanting to take vitamin E and you are on anti-coagulant therapy,
or if you have hypertension or thrombophlebitis.
There is no question, vitamin E protects the body from excessive oxidative
damage, protects individual cell membranes from a process called lipid
peroxidation, enhances vitamin A activity, and reproductive capability.
In fact, when vitamin E was discovered in 1922, and named "E"
after its discoverers, Evans, Emerson, and Bishop, the substance that
they isolated from vegetable oil, they named tocopherol after the Greek
word tokos, which means offspring, because when it was withheld from experimental
rat's diets, they failed to reproduce, but when replaced, produced robust
(S) Selenium is a trace mineral (needed only in small amounts)
which is gaining importance in today's toxic world, not only because of
the presence of toxins in our environment, but because much of our soil
is completely devoid of this essential nutrient. It is a powerful antioxidant
and chelator (binds and helps to eliminate from the body) heavy metals
such as arsenic, cadmium, and mercury. Selenium activates glutathione
peroxidase, an enzyme which destroys peroxides (free radicals) before
they can cause cellular membrane damage. Selenium is essential to protein
and DNA synthesis, immune function, cellular membrane integrity, pancreatic
function, retinal health, sexual reproductive function, and tissue elasticity.
Selenium prevents a number of diseases including muscular dystrophy, heart
disease, arthritis, and even cancer. Interestingly, cancer patients have
statistically lower plasma selenium levels. There is lower cancer mortality
in states with higher levels of selenium in the soil.
Besides the association with cancer, selenium deficiency can cause age
spots, cataracts, sterility, muscle and joint pain, muscle weakness, including
heart muscle, pancreatic insufficiency, poor hair and skin tone, chronic
infections, and mercury toxicity.
The selenium content of foods is dependent on the amount in the soil.
Whole grains and cereals contain the most selenium, with meat, poultry,
fish (especially lobster), and dairy products following in decreasing
concentration. Broccoli, cabbage, onion, and tomatoes are also good sources
Although the RDA for Selenium is from 50 to 200 mcg. (thatís MICROgrams),
therapeutic dosages can range up to 300 mg. (milligrams). Selenium and
vitamin E act synergistically so you will often find the two combined
in a supplement.
Toxicity can occur with dosage higher than 500 mg. Signs of toxicity are
yellowing of the skin, skin eruptions, and a garlic-like odor of the breath.