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Antioxidants Are Crucial Nutrients for Optimal Health

Antioxidants Are Crucial Nutrients for Optimal Health
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By    |   Monday, 01 April 2019 02:13 PM

You’ve probably seen many health headlines on studies linking nutritious foods and health.

Blueberries may help prevent heart disease.

Carrots boost eyesight.

Tomatoes can stave off prostate cancer.

But what you may not know is that all of these healthy foods contain antioxidants — natural compounds believed to be at the root of such benefits. Antioxidants combat what are called “free radicals” in the body that can cause unhealthy changes in cells and tissues that lead to disease.

Unfortunately, many Americans aren’t getting enough of them in their diets or through supplements, putting themselves at risk for the nation’s major killers.

“Every day, our bodies go through a normal process called ‘oxidation,’ which is simply what happens when oxygen comes in contact with another substance — in this case, the body’s living tissue,” explains renowned cardiologist Chauncey Crandall, M.D.

“[That] results in the production of ‘free radicals’ [that] can cause unhealthy changes in the body…. Antioxidants are vitamins and other compounds contained in foods that help prevent this harmful oxidative process. That’s why it’s beneficial to fill your plate every day with antioxidant-rich foods such as blueberries, beans, and carrots.”

Antioxidants include some vitamins (such as vitamins C and E), minerals (such as selenium), and flavonoids found in plants. The best sources of antioxidants are fruits and vegetables, but they are also in red wine, teas, and available in supplements.

Antioxidants may play a role in the management or prevention of some medical conditions, such as heart disease, some cancers, macular degeneration, Alzheimer's disease, and some arthritis-related conditions.

According to the National Institutes of Health, studies have shown antioxidants — found in fruits and vegetables — may prevent the types of free radical damage that have been associated with cancer and other health conditions.

  • One the most encouraging antioxidant studies tracked men participating in the long-running Health Professionals Follow-Up Study and found those whose diets included lots of tomato products had a reduce risk of developing prostate cancer. The likely culprit: lycopene, a carotenoid from tomatoes. The researchers concluded: “Frequent consumption of tomato products is associated with a lower risk of prostate cancer.”
  • Another major study — the Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) — found a beneficial effect of antioxidant supplements on vision. This study, led by the National Eye Institute and co-sponsored by the National Institutes of Health, showed that a combination of antioxidants — vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene (in carrots) and zinc — reduced the risk of developing the advanced stage of age-related macular degeneration by 25 percent in people with the disease, a leading cause of blindness. A followup study, AREDS2, found adding lutein and zeaxanthin (two carotenoids) improved the supplement’s effectiveness.
  • A third study — the Linxian General Population Nutrition Intervention Trial — found Chinese men and women taking selenium daily — along with beta-carotene and alpha-tocopherol — had a lower risk of death from gastric cancer.
  • Another large trial — the SU.VI.MAX Study — found French men taking daily multi-vitamin supplements — containing vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, and the minerals selenium, and zinc — for more than seven years had lower risk of cancer and death from all causes.

David Brownstein, M.D., a board-certified family physician notes that antioxidants not only combat free radicals, but also the inflammation they cause.

“A host of ill effects … are characterized by inflammation,” explains Dr. Brownstein, editor of the Natural Way to Healthnewsletter. “Research has shown that oxidative stress is associated with Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis, autoimmune disorders, cancer, heart disease, [and] Parkinson’s disease.

“Antioxidants … are like firefighters that put out the oxidative fires in the body. Therefore, it is important to ensure that you have optimal antioxidant levels.”

The liver is a primary organ for detoxifying the body, he explains.

“This [process] requires antioxidants in order to ensure that the toxic chemicals do not damage the liver. The antioxidants involved include vitamins A, C, and E,” he says. “Other nutrients important for … detoxification include vitamins B2, B3, B6, B12, and folic acid.”

Dr. Crandall, chief of the cardiac transplant program at the world-renowned Palm Beach Cardiovascular Clinic in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., adds that certain antioxidant-rich foods stand out.

Among them: Blueberries.

“They help keep the heart’s blood vessels healthy, and also provide the body with fiber — which helps lower cholesterol …. . But where blueberries really excel is in their antioxidant power,” he says. “They also suppress inflammation, which is a key driver of coronary artery disease.”

Gary Small, M.D., director of the UCLA Longevity Center, points out that antioxidants are not only good for the body, but also the brain.

“As our brains age, they have to ward off attacks from free radicals, which are the by-products of brain cells doing their work,” notes Dr. Small, author of The Mind Health Report newsletter.

“Most brain-healthy and heart-healthy diets include various antioxidant foods that counter the oxidation caused by free radicals. Many experts recommend five servings of fruits and vegetables each day. Some diets, like the MIND diet, emphasize green leafy vegetables that are good sources of vitamins A, C, and K, and folate, as well as berries, which are sources of vitamins K and C, and manganese.”

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You've probably seen many health headlines on studies linking nutritious foods and health.Blueberries may help prevent heart disease.Carrots boost eyesight.Tomatoes can stave off prostate cancer.
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2019-13-01
Monday, 01 April 2019 02:13 PM
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