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The Right Antioxidants (Part 2)

The Right Antioxidants (Part 2)
By Health Watch Holistic Kinesiologist, Teya Skae

Published in March 2006 Nova

We now know that to minimise free-radical damage – which, in essence, is premature ageing - we need to include an adequate supply of antioxidants in our diet, on a daily basis. There are two categories of antioxidants: water soluble, such as Vitamin C, and fat soluble, such as vitamins A and E.

Vitamin C is the most abundant water-soluble antioxidant in the body. It acts primarily in cellular fluid and helps return vitamin E to its active form. It is found in citrus fruits, blackcurrants, berries, guavas and peppers as some of its main sources.
Vitamin A and, to lesser degree, Beta Carotene (vegetable form of vitamin A) are essential in keeping the mucous membranes that line all the cavities of our bodies in a healthy condition.
It is highly recommended that vitamin A be consumed from the diet rather than from supplements (particularly in the case of beta carotene), as it offers maximal potential for health benefits, which supplements cannot. The richest sources of vitamin A are liver, cod liver oil, butter, and egg yolks.

Vitamin A is also found in a variety of dark green and deep orange fruits and vegetables, such as carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, spinach, butternut squash, turnip greens, mustard greens, and romaine lettuce. Beta carotene is the most active carotenoid (the red, orange, and yellow pigments) form of vitamin A, but it is inefficiently absorbed by the human body and is converted to retinol, which does not happen to vitamin A derived from animal sources.
Vitamin E (d-alpha tocopherol) is the most abundant fat-soluble antioxidant in the body and is one of the most efficient antioxidants available. It is also a primary defender against fat oxidation. It is found in nuts, some seeds, peas and wheat germ.
So, if we eat enough of foods that contain these vitamins, would that be sufficient antioxidant intake? Not quite. For a start, eating a lot of fruit would hinder the benefits, as fruits contain high amounts of sugar in the form of fructose and the liver does not digest fructose easily. Very small amounts are okay, but any more than 2 pieces of fruit daily would be too much fructose, which would burden the liver and also cause bloating. This is why most people do not do well on fruit juices, as fruit juices cause low-blood sugar, leading to cravings. In addition, if the sources are not organic, then we are adding to free-radical damage by ingesting pesticides and chemicals, which is a feature of a high non-organic, vegetable/fruit diet.

So, what is the best solution?

We live in a world of information that is produced at a pace more rapid than we are able to assimilate. Some of the information impinging on us is motivated by the economic goals of companies just wanting to sell more products and they disguise this in sophisticated marketing campaigns, promoting numerous (but often spurious) health benefits associated with their products. This can prove to be quite confusing and overwhelming to eager consumers.

Is there a system that we can rely on for validating some of these health claims in our attempts to find the right antioxidants?

Yes, there is. It is called the ORAC Scale (Oxygen Radical Absorbency Capacity).

A new test developed by Brunswick Labs (partially funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture) can determine the capacity of a substance to protect against the most abundant free radical in the body – ‘superoxide”. There are four known ORAC scales (S-ORAC, ORAC, H-ORAC, N-ORAC) and they vary in results because they measure different volumes/capacities. Some companies use the ORAC scale comparisons based on units per litre, while others measure comparisons by ounces. The figures, if not properly compared, may add to the confusion.
While scientists have not been able to identify all the different phytochemical antioxidants in fruits or vegetables, the ORAC method estimates the overall antioxidant potential of the plant food. Plants with higher ORAC numbers have a greater antioxidant potential. For example, pomegranates and blueberries have been shown to have a very high ORAC (antioxidant) number. This ORAC table allows us to see the bigger picture and make conclude which foods/supplements have the most effect antioxidant capacity.
ORAC (Antioxidant) Units of Selected Foods/Essential Oils/Supplements
Food/Supplement ORAC Units/100g
Clove Oil 10,786,875
Vitamin C 189,000
Thyme Oil 159,590
Oregano Oil 153,007
Vitamin E 135,000
Wolf berries 25,300
Ningxia Wolfberry Juice 4,320
Pomegranates 3,307
Raisins 2,830
Blueberries 2,400
Blackberries 2,036
Garlic 1,939
Kale 1,770
Cranberries 1,750
Strawberries 1,540
Tahitian Noni Juice 1,506
Spinach 1,260
Raspberries 1,220
Yellow Squash 1,150
Brussels sprouts 980
Plums 949
Alfalfa sprouts 930
Steamed Spinach 909
Broccoli Flowers 890
Beets 840
Grapes, Red 739
Red bell pepper 710
Cherries 670
Kiwi fruit 610

Source: http://optimalhealth.cia.com.au/OracLevels.htm

We need 5000 ORAC scale units of bio-available antioxidants daily as a minimum to cope with the average rate of oxidation. If we exercise, drink alcohol or for those who have diabetes and/or live a busy/stressful life, then that amount needs to be doubled or tripled. This might be quite difficult to do. Consuming 2 punnets of organic blueberries and 250g of raisins daily would be a physical challenge - not to mention quite expensive!

The solution is found in “super-foods” and super-supplements

One of the best known super-foods on this planet is Wolfberry. There are at least 17 species of Wolfberries and not all are the same. The best source - and the highest on the ORAC scale (25,300 per 100gr) - comes from Ningxia Province in China. Locals there live beyond 110 - 120 years of age, with good health and an active mind and body. Some have even been reported to have done their PhD’s whilst in their 90’s.
Ningxia’s Perfect Geography for Wolfberries

The Huang He (Yellow) River originates in the Himalayan Mountains and flows through the Ningxia Province. This river creates a unique, mineral-rich, super fertile silt-water flood plain, like none found elsewhere on earth, producing incomparably potent wolfberries. The beautiful Ningxia region is called “China’s herbal medicine valley” and is renowned for meeting all of the stringent rules to be awarded the prestigious “Green Certificate” - the equivalent of the USDA’s Organic Certification.

As for super-supplements, organic clove oil tops the list, with 2 – 4 drops being equivalent to 10,000 - 15,000 on the ORAC scale. However, make sure the label says “100% Pure Grade-A essential oils”, otherwise it will not have the therapeutic/antioxidant value it needs to be of any benefit in our bodies.
Another fact that we need to know is that a lot of companies use chemical solvents and petrochemicals in the process of extracting essential oils. This is because distillation is a very expensive process and using chemicals speeds up the extraction time of the oil from the plant. It takes an average 12 - 24 hours to distil pure frankincense. This is very costly, which is why pure unadulterated frankincense oil is quite expensive. It is also a fact that only 2% of the world’s total aromatherapy oils production is considered therapeutic and, therefore, of any benefit to us; the other 98% is synthetically/chemically derived for perfume/cosmetics companies, who are only interested in the floral tones of the oil and not its therapeutic benefits.
Another very reliable supplement is Vitamin E, which is very important to take if consuming fish oil supplements. All oils oxidise - except for Virgin Coconut Oil. Even good old Virgin Olive Oil oxidises during cooking. As fish oils also oxidise, simultaneously taking vitamin E would help prevent rancid reactions taking place in the cells. However, vitamin E is best taken in a supplement form in a dose of no more than 400IU (ORAC of 540). Higher doses are counterproductive and may even thin the blood. Relying on vitamin E from nuts is not as healthy, due to their very high content of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, which means they go rancid and oxidise once in the body.

We need various “good” fats on a daily basis. For those who are on a vegetarian diet, relying on Linseed/Flaxseed oil for their intake of Omega 3’s is inadequate. The Omega 3 from flax/linseed oil comes in a form of ALA (Alpha-linolenic acid) and it does not convert easily to EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) or DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) – the oils found in fatty fish, which are essential for good heart and brain function. “The good oil” for everyone to use daily is Virgin Coconut Oil, as it is stable during cooking/baking, does not oxidise and even has antibacterial properties. For those who are concerned about it being a saturated fat, there is a lot of myths about fats and these are fully explained by Mary Enig, PhD and Sally Fallon, in the "The Oiling of America”.
Dr. Ray Peat, PhD also offers a succinct explanation of the benefits of Coconut Oil over polyunsaturated oils and other unsaturated fats.
“When the oils are stored in our tissues, they are much warmer, and more directly exposed to oxygen than they would be in the seeds, and so their tendency to oxidize is very great. These oxidative processes can damage enzymes and other parts of cells, and especially their ability to produce energy. The enzymes which break down proteins are inhibited by unsaturated fats; these enzymes are needed not only for digestion, but also for production of thyroid hormones, clot removal, immunity, and the general adaptability of cells. The risks of abnormal blood clotting, inflammation, immune deficiency, shock, aging, obesity, and cancer are increased. Thyroid [hormones] and progesterone are decreased”.

Coconut Oil is unique in its ability to remain stable at very high temperatures, which is why it does not oxidize. It is quickly metabolized, as it does not require the liver or gallbladder to emulsify it, and functions in some ways as an antioxidant.

We can see that, by including super-foods - such as organic Ningxia wolfberries, blueberries, raisins and other high ORAC scale foods - in our diet, we can noticeably slow the biological clock that is relentlessly ticking away our “life-time”.

“The amount of antioxidants that you maintain in your body is directly proportional to how long you will live” Dr Richard Cutler, Director of Anti-Ageing Research Department of the National Institute of Health, Washington, D.C.

References:

Dr Stephen Davies and Dr Alan Stewart Nutritional Medicine 1987.

Dr Joseph Mercola www.mercola.com
http://www.mercola.com/2001/mar/24/coconut_oil.htm

Dr Ray Peat PhD http://www.efn.org/~raypeat/
Mary G. Enig, PhD. Know Your Fats: The Complete Primer for Understanding the Nutrition of Fats, Oils, and Cholesterol, Bethesda Press, May 2000. www.enig.com/trans.html.
Mary Enig, PhD and Sally Fallon, The Oiling of America.
http://www.westonaprice.org/knowyourfats/oiling.html

Brunswick Labs
http://brunswicklabs.com/index.shtml
Uffe Ravnskov, MD, PhD, The Cholesterol Myths: Exposing the Fallacy that Cholesterol and Saturated Fat Cause Heart Disease, New Trends Publishing, Washington, DC, 2000. More info online at: www.ravnskov.nu/cholesterol.htm

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