We talked about why it's
necessary and this month I will go more in-depth as to the reasons
why. We discussed the use of a high quality multivitamin and
the use of two others vitamins, Vitamin C and E . The reason
for the multivitamin is obvious with a country with a 91% nutritional
deficiency, but why the C and E? In a single word, oxidation.
To translate into more imaginable
terms, it's simply the bodies normal function to rust with age.
We're not talking the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz here, but
the body naturally gets damaged over it's lifetime by the pollutants
and chemicals we're exposed to and even the normal process of
breathing in oxygen itself! In fact a simple definition of aging
is "damage accumulation".
We now know that the single
most powerful way to prevent damage is to slow down the oxidation
process and hence the need for antioxidants. To better illustrate
lets explore some of the major disease states that oxidation
causes. When ultraviolet rays of the sun pass through the lens
of the eye over time a clouding of the eye can occur and diminish
sight. The disease state as you probably have guessed is cataracts.
An article published in the February 1991 issue of The Archives
of Ophthalmology stated that "we can diminish the risk
of developing cataracts by the use of relatively elevated levels
of some of the antioxidant nutrients."
Another disease that is indirectly
the leading cause of death in the United States today is arteriosclerosis
which resulting in stroke and heart attacks. Antioxidants may
lower the risk of heart disease by reducing the oxidation of
cholesterol resulting in the reduction in plaque formation on
vessel walls. To clarify, levels of circulating cholesterol
is not the issue. It is the oxidation of the cholesterol that
causes it to become sticky and adhere to cell walls that is.
The single most important thing after modification of your diet
in cholesterol management is taking antioxidants; in particular
vitamin C and E. In fact there is way too great of an emphasis
by the pharmaceutical companies in cholesterol lowering pills
being the key to disease control, where prevention of oxidation
of cholesterol is a much more important (and inexpensive) consideration
in the management of arteriosclerosis.
How do antioxidants work
you might ask. At the molecular level, antioxidants work to
stabilize a class of particles called free radicals. A free
radical (not to be confused with a 60's activist) is an unstable
atom or molecule that reacts with normal cells and causes damage
. The damage in the long run can be irreparable and lead to
disease. Free radical activity has been implicated in cancer,
heart disease, arthritis, cataracts and arteriosclerosis (mentioned
previously) and 100's of other diseases. To give you a simple
example of how they work picture an apple cut in half and left
to air exposure. In a matter of minutes the surface turns brown.
This is an oxidative process (free radical activity).
Now take another apple, cut
it, and squeeze the juice of a lemon on it. The apple does not
turn brown. This is because of the antioxidant (protective)
properties of the lemon and more specifically the Vitamin C
in the lemon. This simple example is an illustration of how
nutritional products can protect the body in the ravages of
everyday existence in a not so pristine planet. Another way
of looking at the protective effects of antioxidants is by asking
what happens when we greatly increase the level of free radicals
in the body? The best way to do it is being done by millions
of Americans each day and that is cigarette smoking.
Look at some one who has
smoked for 30 years verses someone who hasn't. I would say there
you have it. The physiological age of the smoker is in many
cases decades older than the non smoker. It is so dramatic that
I marvel at the discrepancies in the apparent age of people
who smoke verses non smokers. Excessive sun exposure (sun tanning)
is another dramatic way to increase free radical damage and
is another obvious comparison of what minimizing the oxidative
process can do to protect the body and look (and feel) healthier
well into the last third of your life.