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Antioxidants

Oxygen: an unreliable friend, page 15   March 1 2010  -   The antioxidant prescription - excerpts    Bruce Wylde 


Your average well balanced  atom has a nucleus at the centre, and whizzing around the nucleus is the familiar cloud of electrons -just the right number of them. Under certain circumstances, however, atoms can lose an electron or two, and such atoms then wander around looking everywhere for replacement electrons attached to other atoms. There are the needful characters call radicals -  and sometimes free radicals. None of them are more reactive than the oxygen radicals. 

Apoptosis ( programmed cell death)

In 1961, Leonard Hayflick and Paul Moorhead, working at the Stanford University School of medicine, determined that normal cells can divide only a limited number of times, after which cells effectively commit suicide.  The number of times a cell is generically programmed to reproduce, dubbed the ‘‘hayflick limit’’, varies from species to species. In the case of human cells, the Hayflick limit is about fifty and is directly linked to the lifespan of individuals, Put bluntly, its’s difficult for you and me to live on when our cells are preprogrammed to conk out after so many recycles. Here, suggested Hayflick and Mooread, might be the truth about aging.

As work in this area progressed, it turned out that free radicals played a role in this programming, In fact, free radicals have turned out to be nature’s preferred mechanism of self-destruction when a cell’s time is up. The scientific name for this programmed death is ‘‘apoptosis’’.

Meanwhile the study of antioxidants has also moved forward.. Dr. Lester Packer, a senior scientist Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, was among the first to describe the role of antioxidants in the health of organisms. He proposed that antioxidants function not singly but as a network to balance overall free radical activity. Packer demonstrated that antioxidants synergies with one another and, even more importantly, recycle one another. In order to neutralize free radicals antioxidants need to work like a team of firemen putting out a fire: some man the pumper truck, some are up the ladder, some are at the hose. Some move right in close to the fire to up out the flames, where others help the victims of smoke inhalation back away the fire. You can’t get away with sending only one antioxidant - say vitamin E - into the fray: that would be like having all the firemen rush to the end of the hose, with no one left to turn on the water. As you’ll learn later in this book, using single antioxidants in high doses can actually do you more harm than good. 

Dr. Packer has focused, rightly, on the synergy of antioxidants. He has described five pivotal antioxidants, which he calls network antioxidants: alpha-lipoid acid, coenzyme Q10, vitamine C, the naturally occurring forms of vitamin E, and glutathione. His conclusion; theres’a synergy between these antioxidants that slows aging and prevents and treats disease.  The clear  message that emerges from Packer,s review of the literature and from his own work is that antioxidants should be taken as a balanced network and at does specific to the individual case or condition. 

People who live to be 110 or older have higher levels of antioxidants in their bodies than less long-lived individuals. 

When stress is high for any prolonged period of time, the body breaks down rapidly and blood pressure can rise. High blood pressure and stress can push you over the boiling point. Free radicals are produced at alarming rates and they end up causing damage to artery linings. You’re on track for a heart attack. 


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