Antioxidants are advertised in products every day, from age-defying cosmetics and breakfast cereals, to nutritional supplements. They are chemical compounds that bind with, and destroy, free radicals, reducing damage to cells. The two most well known antioxidants, vitamin C and vitamin E, are found in a wide variety of foods, stabilize cells from free radical damage. But there are many more. Two very important antioxidants you might not be aware of are worth learning about and incorporating into your health program.
Tea is one of the most widely consumed beverages in the world, second only to water, and its medicinal properties have been widely explored. Unlike black tea, green tea production does not involve fermentation (leading to oxidation) of young tea leaves. Green tea is produced from steaming fresh leaves at high temperatures, thereby leaving the antioxidants, called polyphenols, intact. Green tea polyphenols (more commonly known as catechins: epicatechin, epicatechin-3-gallate, epigallocatechin, and epigallocatechin-3-gallate [EGCG – which generally accounts for greater than 40% of the total content of green tea]) have demonstrated significant antioxidant activities in many studies. The daily use of green tea, whether by drinking or by supplementation of green tea extracts (GTE), has been shown to reduce problems and death from many degenerative disease including cardiovascular disease and cancer. This may be because GTEs are great antioxidants, but GTE is also anti-inflammatory – inhibiting a deep inflammatory cellular process known as the NFKB pathway, considered by many to be a main pathway involved in the creation free radicals and cancer. Indeed, GTE has been studied for the prevention of many types of cancer including colon, breast and skin cancers, as well as a reduction in mortality due to cardiovascular disease in women. GTE can chelate metal ions, such as iron, and also stimulates the activity of liver’s detoxification enzymes, thereby promoting detoxification of xenobiotic compounds that can generate radical oxygen species.
EGCG is also found in smaller amounts in cocoa and chocolate, but only the dark varieties. Doses of Green tea extracts standardized to 80-percent total polyphenols are dosed at an average of 500-1500mg per day, and up to 2-4 grams a day.
Alpha Lipoic Acid
A biological antioxidant, alpha lipoic acid (also known as thioctic acid) is readily absorbed and rapidly converted to its reduced form in many tissues. This compound appears to be unique in its ability to exert antioxidant action in both water-soluble and fat-soluble regions. Lipoic acid helps to recycle antioxidants – vitamins C, E, CoQ10 and glutathione, and supports cell function. And while it works with the other antioxidants Vitamin C and E, it is many times stronger. Lipoic acid has been studied to reduce insulin resistance, as well as neural damage, associated with diabetes. Lester Packer, PhD, of the University of California at Berkeley, has suggested lipoic acid is an ideal antioxidant because it has a positive interaction with other antioxidants, enhancing free radical quenching, and it has metal chelating activity.
Although some lipoic acid is found in small amounts in dark leafy greens such as spinach, as well as meat (especially organ meats), consumption of these foods has not yet been found to leads to high levels in the body. Supplementation of this antioxidant is the best way to get it, doses range 300-600 mg a day.
To get the most from antioxidants, one should eat a balanced, whole-foods diet consisting of varied colored vegetables and fruits, reduce emotional stress, and have a healthy lifestyle in addition to supplementation.