Ageing and antioxidants
ALTHOUGH oxygen is essential
for life, some of it in our body is
always converted into free radicals.
Free radicals are highly destructive
and reactive particles and have
been implicated as a possible cause
of ageing. The free-radical theory
of ageing, has received much
attention from science in recent
years. According to this theory,
the cells and tissues in our body
are constantly under attack by free
radicals. Over a period of time,
free-radical damage accumulates,
leading to the wear and-tear of the
body, causing premature ageing,
organ failure as well as age-related
diseases like cancer, Alzheimer's
disease, diabetes and cardiovascular
Like free radicals, protective
antioxidants are constantly
produced in the body. However, in
order to maintain adequate levels of
antioxidants to prevent premature
ageing and stay healthy, we must
eat more fresh fruits, vegetables,
seed and nuts. These are rich in
antioxidant nutrients like beta-carotene, Vitamin C and Vitamin E.
Good sources of vitamin C include
berries, guavas and citrus fruits.
Vitamin E is found mainly in nut
and seed oils. Wheat germ, soybean,
corn, safflower and sunflower oil
are particularly rich in Vitamin E.
Beta-carotene is found in yellow
and orange coloured fruits and
vegetables such as papayas, carrots
and dark green vegetables.
As a general rule, the more
"colourful" the fruit or vegetable,
the higher they are in antioxidants.
Experts recommend that we eat
a wide variety of such fruits and
vegetables. But you would need to
eat a lot of these to get an adequate
protective dose of antioxidants.
Hence antioxidant supplementation
is necessary, especially for the elderly
and those at a high risk of age-related diseases.
Other potent antioxidants include
alpha-lipoic acid and co-enzyme
Q10. Alpha-lipoic acid is a potent
antioxidant which deserves special
attention as studies show that
it has exceptional free-radical
scavenging properties that lowers
the risk of age-related diseases. It is
found in rice bran, peas, spinach,
broccoli and Brussels sprouts. Most
antioxidants act in specific areas
of the cell. For instance, vitamin
C only acts in the watery parts of
the cell and is not found in the
fatty or lipid parts while the reverse
is true of vitamin E. Alpha-lipoic
acid is distinct in that it is able to
enter both the fatty as well as the
watery parts of the cell and thus
offers a much broader protection by
neutralising both water-soluble as
well as fat-soluble free radicals.
Alpha-lipoic acid also increases the
longevity of other antioxidants as
it is a "regenerator" or "recycler".
When an antioxidant such as
vitamin C neutralises a free radical,
it becomes oxidised and is no
longer able to act as an antioxidant.
Alpha-lipoic acid has the ability to
regenerate vitamin C oxidised form
back into its active form. Studies
suggest that a number of important
antioxidants including vitamin
C, vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol),
coenzyme Q-10 and glutathione
can be regenerated in this manner
by alpha-lipoic acid.
Type II diabetes is associated with
ageing, poor diet and unhealthy
lifestyle of which supplementation
of alpha-lipoic acid may help.
Studies show that high doses of
alpha-lipoic acid improve blood
sugar levels via better insulin
sensitivity. In one small clinical study
conducted in Goethe-University,
Frankfurt, the supplementation
with 1200mg of alpha-lipoic acid
daily for four weeks significantly
improved the glucose control of 20
Type II diabetic patients.
A larger study on 72 patients with
Type II diabetes using doses ranging
from 600 to 1,800mg of alpha-lipoic acid for four weeks shows a
25 per cent improvement in insulin
sensitivity. Other benefits observed
with alpha-lipoic acid is the
reduction in the sensation of pain,
burning, tingling and numbness
associated with diabetes.