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Plentiful intakes of antioxidants have been associated with reduced risk of some chronic diseases, in the same way that generous intakes of fruits, vegetables and grains have been associated with similar health benefits.

ANTIOXIDANTS TUTORIAL, PART 2: Health benefits of antioxidants

There are many known health benefits of antioxidant intake. Some scientific examples include the following:

Cancer

  • People with high beta-carotene intakes have about one-third the cancer risk as people with low beta-carotene intakes. (Peto R. Cancer Surveys 1983;2:327-340.)
  • People with higher intakes of vitamin C have about half the risk for many types of cancer when compared to people with low vitamin C intakes. (Block G. Am J Clin Nutr 1991;53:270S-282S.)
  • People with low intakes of several antioxidants have more DNA damage than people with generous intakes. (Ames BN. Metat Res 2001;475:7-20.)
  • People with the highest intakes of vitamin C, E, and beta-carotene have a significantly lower risk of lung cancer. (Yong LC et al. Am J Epidemiol 1997;146:231-43.)
  • Men who took vitamin E supplements for 10 years or more had a 30% lower risk of bladder cancer. (Michaud DS et al. Am J Epidemiol 2000;152:1145-53.)
  • There are over 66 studies showing cancer-prevention activity of green tea, black tea, and their constituents. These include cancer reduction in the skin, lung, oral cavity, esophagus, stomach, liver, pancreas, bladder, small intestine, colon and prostate. (Lambert JD et al. Am J Clin Nutr 2005;81:284S-291S.)

Heart Disease

  • Elderly people who took both vitamin C and vitamin E supplements had a decreased risk of death from heart disease as well as overall mortality. (Losonczy KG, Harris TB, Havlik RJ. Am J Clin Nutr 1996;64:190-196.)
  • Men who took vitamin supplements had a 70% lower risk of dying from heart disease and a 50% lower risk of heart attack. (Meyer F, Bairati I, Dagenasis GR. Can J Cardiol 1996;12:930-934.)
  • In the Nurses’ Health Study involving over 87,000 women, there was a 41% reduction in risk of heart disease for those who took vitamin E for more than two years. (Stampfer MJ, Hennekens CH, Manson JE, et al. New Engl J Med 1993;328:1444-1449.)
  • In the Nurses’ Health Study, vitamin C supplements were also related to a lower risk of heart disease. (Osganian SK et al. J Am Coll Cardiol 2003;42:246-52.)
  • In the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study involving almost 40,000 men, there was a 37% reduction in risk of heart disease in men who took vitamin E for more than two years. The average intake in the lowest risk group was 400 IU per day. (Rimm EB, Stampfer MJ. Ascherio A, et al. New Engl J Med 1993;328:1450-1456.)
  • To date, 17 human group studies have been published on flavonoid intake and the risk of coronary artery disease and stroke. Positive studies have shown reduction in mortality risk of up to 65%. (Arts ICW and Hollman PCH. Am J Clin Nutr 2005;81:317S-325S.)
  • The largest and longest study to date, done as part of the Harvard-based Nurses’ Health Study and Health Professionals Follow-up Study, included almost 110,000 men and women whose health and dietary habits were followed for 14 years. The higher the average daily intake of fruits and vegetables, the lower the chances of developing cardiovascular disease. Compared with those in the lowest category of fruit and vegetable intake (less than 1.5 servings a day), those who averaged 8 or more servings a day were 30% less likely to have had a heart attack or stroke. (Joshipura KJ, et al. Ann Intern Med 2001 Jun 19;134(12):1106-14.)

Other Chronic diseases

  • Several long-term studies have shown a reduced risk of cataracts in those who have taken vitamin C and/or vitamin E supplements for more than 10 years. (Jacques PF et al. Arch Ophthalmol 2001;119:1009-19.)
  • The Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) at NIH found that daily supplementation with antioxidants, zinc, and copper delayed progression of age-related macular degeneration. (AREDS report no. 8. Arch Ophthalmol 2001;119:1417-36.)
  • Research has shown a significant relationship between flavonoid intakes and the occurrence of asthma. (Knekt P et al. Am J Clin Nutr 2002;76:560-8.)
  • Other research suggests antioxidants may help support lung function and protect the lungs from oxidative damage. (Schunemann HJ et al. Am J Respir Crit Care Med 2001;163:1246-55.)
  • In a study on Alzheimer’s disease, high levels of vitamin E delayed progression of the disease. (Sano M et al. N Engl J Med 1997;336:1216-22.)


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When you look at a wonderful wood fireplace it usually burns just fine. However, occasionally a spark or hot cinder shoots and burns a little hole in your carpet. Over the months and years, you will have a damaged carpet in front of your fireplace. Look at the fireplace as the furnace of your cell and the hot cinders as free radicals. Your carpet is your body. Whatever part of your body wears out first is the type of disease you will develop. If it is your brain, you could get Alzheimer’s dementia or Parkinson’s disease. If it is your eyes, you could develop a cataract or macular degeneration. If it is your arteries, you could develop a heart attack or stroke. 
 
You are not defenseless against this process. Antioxidants are like the fine wire mesh or glass doors you place in front of your fireplace. The sparks are still going to fly; however, your carpet—your body—is protected. This is the key. To protect your body, you want enough antioxidants on board to handle the number of free radicals you produce.   The best way to achieve this goal is to take high-quality, complete and balanced nutritional supplements.
 

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You will hear the argument that we need to supplement our diet because of the depleted nutrients in our food today. This is true; however, it is not the main reason to supplement your diet. The main reason is because of the tremendous number of free radicals we produce. Our stressful lifestyles, polluted environment, and over-medicated society causes this generation to handle more free radicals than any previous generation. Remember, it is about balance. You need enough antioxidants available to manage the number of free radicals you produce.
 
The medical literature now shows us that the optimal level of the antioxidants and their supporting nutrients needed to prevent or decrease the risk of chronic degenerative diseases is much greater than the amount we can obtain from our depleted food supply. Our best option to prevent or slow down this process of oxidative stress is to take high-quality, complete and balanced nutritional supplements the rest of our lives.

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Dr Strands Health Nuggets #4

Our body has the ability to make some of its own antioxidants. We are also able to get additional antioxidants from the foods we eat, especially from our fruits and vegetables.   This is why you will usually see the recommendation of consuming 6 to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables each day. However, today we are now able to get optimal levels of antioxidants by supplementing a healthy diet. Remember it is all about balance. To avoid oxidative stress, you want enough antioxidants to handle the free radicals produced.
 
There is solid evidence that our food supply is depleted in nutrients. Because of our depleted soils, green harvesting, cold storage, processing, and food preparation methods, our foods have a significant decrease in nutritional value. This is certainly true of the micronutrients, especially the antioxidants. The decreased nutritional value of food is definitely a good reason to supplement your diet; however, our next email will explain what I believe is the main reason we need to supplement our diets.

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When you produce more free radicals than you can manage, you create what is known as oxidative stress. Oxygen is essential for life itself; however, it is also inherently dangerous for our existence. The same process that causes a cut apple to turn brown or metal to rust also causes your body to rust inside. This process of oxidative stress is the underlying cause of the overwhelming majority of chronic degenerative diseases.
 
Oxidative stress is literally the dark-side of oxygen.   However, we are not defenseless against this process. Antioxidants have the ability to neutralize a free radical. Balance is the key. You need to have enough antioxidants available to handle the number of free radicals produced. Then you are able to prevent oxidative stress from occurring. 

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There are a certain number of free radicals produced when you simply metabolize your food. However, there are many things that increase the number of free radicals you produce:
 
  • Excessive Stress
  • Excessive Exercise
  • Pollutants in our air, food, and water
  • Sunlight
  • Radiation
  • Medication
  • Cigarette smoke
 
Because of our stressful lifestyles, polluted environment, and over- medicated societies, this generation must contend with more free radicals than any previous generation. This leads to a problem known as oxidative stress, which will be the topic of our next email.

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In the process of creating energy within the furnace or fireplace of a cell, occasionally a charged oxygen molecule is created called a free radical. A free radical is an oxygen molecule that has at least one unpaired electron in its outer orbit. This literally gives the molecule an electrical charge, which creates very rapid movement as it tries to find an electron from the tissue around it. If it is not readily neutralized by an antioxidant, it can go on to damage the cell wall, vessel wall, proteins, fats, and even the DNA nucleus of the cell.
The medical and scientific literature has shown us beyond a shadow of a doubt that the root cause of over 70 chronic degenerative diseases is the result of oxidative stress from excessive free radicals. These are diseases like heart disease, diabetes, strokes, cancer, arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, macular degeneration, and the list goes on and on. These diseases concern us, and we would certainly like to avoid them. You will learn in future emails why taking nutritional supplements gives you the best opportunity to prevent or delay these diseases.

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