Cells are the building blocks of every human being. Each and every one of us are made up of trillions and trillions of cells, working together to build and maintain every aspect of your body including your skin, every tissue, and every organ. Each and every cell, so minute yet so powerful, possesses characteristics and qualities that truly exemplify life and the human body. Without proper cellular function, our bodies struggle and ultimately suffer from disease and free radical attack.
What are free radicals? The human body and all of its cells require oxygen to survive. Oxygen provides energy throughout the body, and “energy is essential for every physical activity, from breathing to thinking, from having sex to keeping our hearts beating.” (16) When energy is produced via oxygen, free radicals are also released throughout the body. Free radicals wreak havoc on cell structures, damaging and creating disease, increasing the aging process, and early death. But there is a positive to free radicals also!
You ask, how can that be? Despite the harm done by free radicals, “Free radicals also perform many critical functions in our bodies, from controlling the flow of blood through our arteries, to fighting infection, to keeping our brains sharp and in focus.” (23) Therefore, cells and free radicals are somewhat like partners in crime, working together to maintain balance. Often times our cells that are affiliated with immunity produce nitric oxide and superoxide to ward off and kill bacteria and viruses invading our bodies. These substances are essentially free radicals and yes, they do good in a situation such as this. In fact, “many cancer drugs are actually designed to increase the production of free radicals in the body,” and this results in killing cancer cells. (24) In circumstances such as this, cells and free radicals are working together to make a positive impact on our bodies, but ideally, the cells need to stay in control to maintain balance and prevent free radicals from getting out of control. Cells must be nourished properly to continue to have the ability to quench the other more detrimental free radicals before they escape, invade, and plan their sole attacks. Free radicals will cause damage in the long run. Unless we maintain proper balance throughout the body and nourish our bodies on a cellular level, our health will be jeopardized and ultimately destroyed.
How do we protect ourselves from free radical attack?
Antioxidants are the key protectors from free radical attack. Amazing protectors, antioxidants defend and nourish the body and cells and fight off free radicals and deadly oxidation processes that create disease. When food spoils, it becomes oxidized, and this is precisely what can and will occur throughout the body unless we protect ourselves and our cells with antioxidants. Biological oxidation however, similar to saran wrap placed over food or preservatives added to preserve freshness, establishes cell energy (through the conversion of nutrients into cellular energy via the mitochondria in the cell) But the invading free radicals also enter into this process and try to overwhelm the body and the cells and destroy this energy. Antioxidants play a major role in keeping proper balance and “quenching free radicals wherever they may be, so that they cannot spread their destruction to other cells.” (17) A true defense network, antioxidants are essential key players in cellular and whole body health.
The Key Network Antioxidants
Antioxidants are produced by the body as well as obtained from foods and supplements. Five network antioxidants work together as a team of sorts to protect and strengthen the body as a whole. The most amazing quality that these five players possess is that together, “they can recycle, or regenerate, one another after they have quenched a free radical, vastly extending their antioxidant power.” (17) This in turn keeps the ball rolling while maintaining antioxidant power, balance, and healthy living cells. Although the network antioxidants work together, each of the five has individual roles that focus on their unique duties within the cell while complimenting each other as a whole. Because a cell is about 100% water, but protected by a membrane of fat and lipids, the proper antioxidants must protect the correct parts of the cell depending upon their qualities; that is whether they are fat soluble, water soluble, or in special cases, both. As we know, oil and water don’t mix, and this is also the case when it comes to cells and antioxidants. Therefore, water mixes with water and fat with fat! Here are the five essential network antioxidants and the powers they possess.
Lipoic acid has made an extreme mark in the United States after many years of fame throughout Europe. Thought to be unimportant at one time, lipoic acid is now acclaimed in the U.S. for its protection against diabetes, stroke, and heart disease. (19) A leader for all the antioxidants, lipoic acid increases all levels of every antioxidant defense network. As I mentioned, antioxidants work together, boosting and aiding each other to perform adequately and to their fullest potential. Glutathione, an antioxidant that is not always absorbed well by the body alone, gets a major boost from lipoic acid and lipoic acid in turn recycles glutathione. Packer Labs has shown that lipoic acid can boost glutathione by 30%! (19) This major defensive partnership rids the body and cells of toxins and increases the levels of both lipoic acid and glutathione throughout the body. And if that’s not enough, lipoic acid is the only antioxidant that can cross both the fatty and watery parts of the cell! Yes, with lipoic acid, water and oil do mix. And it can recycle itself alone from it’s free radical state back to its antioxidant state, as well as recycling the other network antioxidants. A major energy source, without lipoic acid, cells cannot function and produce energy and without energy, the cell will die.
Obtained primarily from sources outside of the body and cells, vitamin E must be supplemented to assure adequate levels throughout the body. Vitamin E is the body’s primary fat-soluble antioxidant. Lipoproteins carry Vitamin E through the body and protect from oxidation. Oxidation of lipoproteins has been shown to be the leading cause of hardening of the arteries which eventually will lead to heart disease if untreated. Vitamin E has the amazing power to prevent the fat in our blood from oxidizing and going rancid, again similar to how preservatives protect food from spoilage. When our blood remains healthy, our levels of cholesterol maintain balanced and our hearts, arteries, and genetic material (DNA) stay strong and healthy. When someone has high levels of LDL (bad cholesterol), the oxidation of low-density proteins are not being prevented by antioxidants like vitamin E. Therefore, Vitamin E is very important in the prevention of heart disease. Other studies have shown that Vitamin E plays a major role in prostate cancer prevention and Alzheimer’s disease. (19) UV radiation and ozone which damages the skin and promotes cancer can be protected from vitamin E, as well as inflammation and arthritis. (54) Vitamin E has an amazing history, beginning with its discovery in 1922 as a result of rats eating lettuce and being able to carry fetus’s full term, contrary to the case without being fed lettuce. As a result of wheat germ oil and tocopherols discovered as the substance in the lettuce, vitamin E became a winner among the antioxidants and continues to thrive. Vitamin E is a true champion at warding off free radicals, promoting longevity, and protecting the body and immune system,
Vitamin C is water soluble and is not produced by the body at all. Therefore we must obtain vitamin C from external sources, supplements, and food. As we know, vitamin C has always been a “go to” for cold prevention and treatment, but overall, the reason for this is because vitamin C is a strong immune system booster and supporter. Everyone, especially those individuals with compromised immune systems, should supplement with Vitamin C! Vitamin C regenerates vitamin E, preventing the oxidation of lipoproteins. It also protects against cataracts, protects sperm from free radical damage, prevents cancer by shielding DNA from free radical damage, and produces collagen to maintain healthy skin. (77-78) Vitamin C is the bridge between the fat and water soluble antioxidants, connecting and maintaining the network.
Working as a team with vitamin E, coenzyme Q10 is another fat soluble antioxidant that protects the cell membrane (fatty area). Research has shown that CoQ10 aids in heart failure, angina, and high blood pressure. In addition, CoQ10 is being used to treat cancer, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s. (20) Recent research has shown CoQ10 to be a positive factor in treating breast cancer as well as gum disease. CoQ10 is a coenzyme, working with an enzyme (protein found in living cells) to bring about chemical changes. (93) Known as the “cellular spark plug,” CoQ10 jumps the body like jumper cables do to a car, sustaining energy and preventing fatigue through production of ATP (fuel for the body). And like the other network antioxidants, CoQ10 quenches free radicals and recycles Vitamin E, aiding in lipoprotein protection. As we age, CoQ10 decreases and this is why it is crucial to supplement. CoQ10 is found in salmon and organ meats, but for the all human beings, especially vegetarians, adequate CoQ10 levels will not be achieved and maintained without proper supplementation.
.Glutathione is produced by the body through three amino acids, the building blocks of protein, found in food; glutamic acid, cysteine, and glycine. (20) A true champion against free radical, glutathione is most abundant throughout every cell. However, as we age, glutathione decreases so although it is most abundant, it is imperative to maintain adequate levels, especially past the age of forty. Low levels have been proven to result in early death and diseases of all kinds. The best way to prevent this is to always maintain high levels of glutathione throughout life at any age. Lipoic acid boosts levels of glutathione, as mentioned, and it is the primary water-soluble antioxidant, recycling the oxidized form of vitamin C and restoring its antioxidant power. (105) A great detoxifier, glutathione rids the liver and body of pollutants and toxins. In addition, like the other network antioxidants, glutathione boosts immunity and longevity. Without glutathione, the liver cannot function properly, which will result in a buildup of toxin that can cause liver poisoning. (108)
The Network Boosters
There name says it all! And here they are……..
Plant based Flavanoids like Ginkgo Biloba and Pycnogenol are true winners when it comes to boosting the antioxidant network. Anti-inflammatory, immune boosting, and healthy heart boosters, the flavanoids are exceptional compounds (4,000+) found in the pigments of leaves, barks, rinds, seeds, and flowers. (138) Because flavanoids are not produced by the body, it is a good thing that they are so abundant in plants, veggies and fruits, and even teas and wine. Part of the polyphenol family of molecules, flavanoids differ in their antioxidant powers depending upon their molecular structure. Flavanoids work very well with vitamin C by recovering vitamin C after it has attacked free radicals and therefore restoring its antioxidant power. In turn, this enhances vitamin E and the entire network. The combination of flavanoids found in Pycnogenol (pine bark extract) and Ginkgo Biloba extract have proven to be winners as network boosters. Balancing nitric oxide and keeping levels healthy for optimum health, these two flvanoids maintain proper levels of nitric oxide and prevent this free radical from turning from good to bad. (As in the case with cancer) Ginkgo has been used for centuries by the Chinese as a medicinal tree (leaves and fruit), used for better circulation, improving impotence due to better circulation, heart health, memory, reducing inflammation and overall well being. Pycnogenol has been used dating back to Hippocrates for many ailments including inflammation and immunity. Comprised of forty different antioxidants, pycnogenol works closely with vitamin C, extending its life and recycling it back to its antioxidant form. (126) It also boosts vitamin E and glutathione production and comes in first when it comes to quenching free radicals (superoxide, nitric oxide, hydroxyl radical) Flavanoids as a whole promote wellness, aiding in chronic fatigue, immunity, longevity, attention-deficit disorder, and overall mental function.
The caratenoids are found in both plants and animals, produced by bacteria, algae, fungi, and plants, but humans obtain them from foods. (134) There are six main carotenoids; alpha carotene, beta carotene, cryptoxanthin, lutein, lycopene, and zeaxanthin. Very much affiliated with cancer, it has been shown that carotenoids diminish the growth of cancer. High levels of carotenoids show lower risks of cancer overall. There has been quite a bit of confusion and controversy concerning carotenoids and whether they are truly beneficial, but with the studies and results over the years, it is my belief along with the beliefs of many that carotenoids are in fact beneficial, especially when taken in a mixed dose of carotenoids. Studies have shown boosts in immunity, cancer protection, especially in reference to lycopene found in tomatoes, heart disease prevention due to beta-carotene found in carrots, and excellent eye heath and vision thanks to carotenoids, found in dark green leafy veggies.
Selenium is an excellent booster, working with vitamin E to protect against stroke, heart disease, cancer, and even AIDS. A trace mineral, selenium is found in foods and water and is not produced by the body. Egg yolks, onions, garlic, wheat germ, red grapes, and broccoli are all sources of selenium. (142) As a helper in producing enzymes that impact the network antioxidants, selenium is powerful in ridding the body of toxins. Caution must be taken with selenium, as only a very small amount is necessary and in excess, it can be toxic. Only recently, an amazing discovery was made in China concerning selenium. Keshan’s disease, associated with cardiomyopathy, became very prevalent in China. The soil was known to be very low in selenium levels, and therefore the foods grown in the soil were also very low in selenium. A selenium deficiency was the result and cause of Keshan’s. In 1974, supplementation began in a double-blind study and within two years, Keshan’s disease ended and supplementation became a way of life.
To achieve optimum antioxidant power, a plan must be followed!
-Seven to Ten or even more servings of antioxidant rich fruits and vegetables per day
Bright orange and yellow, apples, berries, citrus, carrots, tomatoes, broccoli and cauliflower, onions and garlic, dark greens, red grapes and wine, teas, tumeric, walnuts, organic produce, the skins which are nutrient packed
-Limit fat consumption to about 30% of daily calories and eat raw, unhydrogenated oils such as olive, sesame, and flaxseed
-Follow the cocktail in two doses, a.m. and p.m. with food
-Always discuss supplementation with your doctor
Vitamin E Family Vitamin E Family
100 mg tocotrienols 200 mg natural alpha
200 mg mixed tocopherols tocopherol
CoQ10 Lipoic Acid
30 mg CoQ10 50 mg lipoic acid
Lipoic Acid Vitamin C
50mg lipoic acid 250 mg ester C
Vitamin C Ginkgo Biloba
250 mg ester vitamin C 30 mg ginkgo biloba
Folic Acid Selenium
400 mcg biotin 200 mcg selenium
2mg vitamin B6
Selecting the best of the best is of most importance! Never settle when it comes to your health and your supplementation! Always buy “natural” rather than synthetic or petroleum based. (Vitamin E)
Special Needs (to be taken either a.m. or p.m. in addition to above)
100 mg lipoic acid
100 mg tocotrienols
50 mg CoQ10
20 mg pycnogenol
100 mg biotin
100 mg lipoic acid
1,000 mg GLA capsule
200 mcg chromium
100 mg biotin
250 mg L-carnitine
1,200 mg calcium
100 mg tocotrienols
100 mg lipoic acid
100 mg tocotrienols
50 mg CoQ10
20 mg Pycnogenol
100 mg biotin
50 mg CoQ10
100 mg tocotrienols (p.m.)
100 mg lipoic acid
100 mg biotin
20 mg Pycnogenol
Mixed caratenoid complex
Your skin is your largest organ, exposed to free radicals daily. It is essential to protect your skin!
Vitamin C helps to produce collagen, and when applied directly to the skin in a cream, it helps supply blood, reduces inflammation, adds glow, diminishes lines and wrinkle, prevents UV damage,
And evens skin tone. A low Ph cream or serum is best absorbed.
Vitamin E is essential too, especially for the outdoors folk. Vitamin E is a leader in protecting against UV radiation, minimizes age related signs, and diminishes lines, wrinkle, and damage.
Pycnogenol aids vitamin C and maintains vibrant skin. It protects collagen from free radicals, strengthens capillaries, protects against UV damage, and acts as an anti-inflammatory, especially for sensitive skin. (204)
With the Power of Antioxidants, Network Boosters, and Healthy Diet and Lifestyle, we have the Power to Achieve Optimum Health, Longevity, and Exceptional Quality of Life!
Packer, Lester Ph.D, & Colman, Carol (1999). The Antioxidant Miracle. Canada: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.