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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 disease.

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.


Age successfully, it's in your hands

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Ageing and antioxidants

Ageing and supplements

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It's the inside that counts

Ageing and Fitness

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Beauty is within reach

Don't let time take your memories

Boost your aging brain with blueberries

6 ways calcium fights aging

Eat right to age well














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