The body is
constantly utilizing oxygen for a myriad of vital functions. A
by-product of oxygen uptake by the body is the creation of chemicals
known as free radicals. Free radicals have unpaired electrons. They
travel around the body trying to steal electrons from other
molecules. In doing so, they damage those cells in a process known as
oxidation. Antioxidants are the remedy to this problem. They
nuetralize free radicals. In the last decade scientists have proven
that some antioxidants have anti-inflammatory properties. In addition
to scavenging free radicals, there are antioxidants that actually
block inflammation. The antioxidant effect (the blocking of certain
oxidizing proteins) lowers the activation of inflammatory signals.
Scientists have also found that combinations of certain antioxidants
have greater effect than single antioxidants on certain types of
inflammation. For instance, in a study with baboons (whose
biochemistry is closer to humans than that of rodents) reseasechers
showed that elevated CRP can be dramatically reversed with a
combination of two antioxidants. Vitamin E (DL-alpha-tocopheryl
acetate) at a human dose of approximately 200 IU/day reduces CRP by
50%. Adding coenzyme Q10 further reduces CRP by about 20% more, for a
70% reduction overall.
Rainwater DL, Mahaney MC, Stocker R. Cosupplementation with vitamin E
and coenzyme Q10 reduces circulating markers of inflammation in
baboons. Am J Clin Nutr. 2004 Sep;80(3):649-55).
A 2004 study
funded by the National Institute of Aging found that taking an
antioxidant supplement was associated with CRP levels similar to
those seen in those who exercised 180 minutes/week or more and did
not take supplements. The study involved 2,964 people. Blood samples
were analyzed for serum levels of C-reactive protein and
interleukin-6, and plasma levels of TNF-alpha.
of the American Geriatrics Society; July
manufactures its own antioxidants. Some of them are in the form of
enzymes, such as glutathione peroxidase, superoxide dismutase, and
catalase – all of which require selenium and zinc to do their job.
Lipoic acid, N-acetylcysteine, and glutathione are enzymes which rely
on sulfur. Supplemental lipoic acid, in conjunction with L-Carnitine,
works in the mitochondria to reduce the harmful effects of free
radicals and diminish the actions of inflammatory signals.
The best sources
of antioxidants are vegetables, fruits, tea and wine. It is a good
idea to get your antioxidants from a variety of sources. The more
colorful your natural foods the better - yellow, orange, green, red,
brown and blue-purple plant foods provide a variety of antioxidants,
and the more brightly colored, the richer the food is in
The following are
rich sources of antioxidants:
The blueberry is
the fruit of a shrub native to North America. Much research has shown
that blueberries provide health benefits in the areas of anti-aging,
antioxidant action, disease prevention, treatment of urinary tract
infection, improving eyesight and controlling cholesterol.
Blueberries are powerful antioxidants. Antioxidants help neutralize
harmful by-products of metabolism called "free radicals"
that can lead to cancer and other age related diseases. Anthocyanin,
which is the pigment that makes the blueberry blue, is the key
antioxidant responsible for these benefits.
(Prior, RL, et. al. J of Agric. Food Chem. 1998, 46:2686-2693).
believe that the phytochemicals in blueberries may reduce
inflammatory processes in tissues by increasing cells membranes
ability to allow vital nutrients and chemical signals to pass in and
out of the cell.
(Journal of Food
Science, Vol. 65, No. 2, 2000).
are currently no scientific recommendations as to the amount of
blueberry to consume to achieve positive health benefits. Blueberries
can be purchased in capsule form or extracts, teas, or in their
natural state. If using the capsule form, follow the dosage advice on
Mexican Red Beans
are similar to red kidney beans, only smaller, darker and rounder.
Also called the Small Red Bean, the
Mexican Red Bean holds both shape and firmness when cooked. It is
most often used in soups, salads, chili and Creole dishes. In a 2004
list of the top 20 antioxidant rich foods put out by nutritionists
from the USDA, this little bean came out at number one. The
researchers used a technique called oxygen radical absorbance
capacity (ORAC) to test the antioxidant power of more than 100
different kinds of fruits, vegetables, nuts and spices.The
flavanoids that give Mexican Red Beans their bright-red color are
extremely powerful antioxidants. These beans are also a good source
of fiber, folic acid, and carbohydrates.Prunes:
actually the dried version of European plums. The name was recently
officially changed to the dried plum. They contain an unusually high
concentration of unique phytonutrients called neochlorogenic
and chlorogenic acid.
These substances found in prunes and plums are classified as phenols,
and their function as antioxidants has been well documented. They are
especially good at neutralizing a particularly dangerous oxygen
radical called superoxide anion
radical, and they have also been
shown to help prevent oxygen-based damage to fats.
The ability of
prunes to fight free radicals is boosted by beta-carotene.
Beta-carotene acts as a fat-soluble antioxidant, eliminating free
radicals that would otherwise cause a lot of damage to our cells and
(Cho E, Seddon JM, Rosner B, Willett WC,
Hankinson SE. Prospective study of intake of fruits, vegetables,
vitamins, and carotenoids and risk of age-related maculopathy. Arch
Ophthalmol. 2004 Jun;122(6):883-92.,
PMID: 15197064 ).
Milk thistle is a
plant native to the Mediterranean. It usually grows in dry, sunny
areas. It is a stout thistle that grows to a height of 4-10 feet and
has red-purple flowers. The active ingredient is called silymarin.
Consisting of a group of compounds known as flavonolignands,
silymarin helps repair liver cells that have been damaged by alcohol
and other toxins. Silymarin also has potent antioxidant and
anti-inflammatory effects. Most milk thistle based products are
standardized to contain 70-80% silymarin.
Healthcare Research and Quality. Milk thistle: effects on liver
disease and cirrhosis and clinical adverse effects. Summary, evidence
report/technology assessment: number 21, September 2000).
dosage for an adult is 12 to 15 g dried herb (200 to 400 mg
silymarin) per day or silymarin-phosphatidylcholine complex 100 to
200 mg two times per day.
Curcumin is the
active ingredient of the Indian spice turmeric. Over the last few
decades hundreds of small scale studies have proven scientifically
what Indian people have known for centuries; that curcumin has the
ability to halt or prevent certain types of cancer, stop
inflammation, improve cardiovascular health, prevent cataracts and
kill or inhibit the toxic effects of certain microbes including fungi
and dangerous parasites.
(Arora RB, Basu
N, Kapoor V, Jain AP. Anti-inflammatory studies on Curcuma- longa
(turmeric). Ind J Med Res 1971 Aug;59(8):1289-95).
Curcumin is a
naturally occurring source of cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) inhibitors,
which can be artificially obtained through such drugs as Celebrex®
and Vioxx®. People who take COX-2 inhibitors as statistically
less likely to develop cancer than those who do not.
(Reddy BS, Rao
CV. Novel approaches for colon cancer prevention by cyclooxygenase-2
inhibitors. J Environ Pathol Toxicol Oncol 2002;21(2):155-64).
Ginkgo tree is the oldest living tree on the planet. Over the past
three decades hundreds of clinical studies have focused on the health
benefits that Ginkgo leaf extract can bring to the human body. Ginkgo
acts as a booster of blood flow to the brain and throughout the
entire body. It increases metabolism efficiency, regulates
neurotransmitters, and boosts oxygen levels in the brain which uses
20% of the body's oxygen. Ginkgo has two groups of active substances,
flavonoids and terpene lactones, including ginkgolides A, B, and C,
bilobalide, quercetin, and kaempferol. The ginkgolides have been
shown to control allergic inflammation, anaphylactic shock and
asthma. In addition, Ginkgo is a powerful antioxidant.
In: Coates P, Blackman M, Cragg G, et al., eds. Encyclopedia
of Dietary Supplements.
New York, NY: Marcel Dekker; 2005:249-257. Accessed at Dekker
Encyclopedias on September 9, 2005)