Guest Post by Dr. Deedra Mason, Director of nutraMetrix & Clinical Education
More and more we are seeing individuals, marketers and supplement providers come back to the term “Antioxidant” when discussing “Longevity”, “immunity” and even “Down and Dirty Detox”. Would you be surprised to hear “brain food”? I wouldn’t. The research is fantastic on the benefits of antioxidants, especially when they are consumed in combination.
Why does combination matter?
Because this is how colorful fruits, vegetables, and even antioxidant-rich botanicals are found in nature. A combination is the synergy of nature. Many of the antioxidant-rich plants are able to defend themselves from UV rays, pestilent environments, and swings in temperature because of the complexity and combination of antioxidants in their skins and pith. They are super free radical scavengers
What does “Free Radical Scavenger” mean? Since there is no official definition, let us agree it means a food with a remarkable health benefit, or one that works to support multiple tissues, or areas of health in the body by neutralizing toxins or toxic behavior of cells.
Quality food means quality cells
Like me, you probably want to believe that your super antioxidants can come solely from untainted whole foods. You want to believe that YOUR balanced diet could provide such a prescription for optimal health. Unfortunately, in both practice and ecology, that is a gambling hand. Diet is only a piece of the puzzle. When we consider optimal cellular health or optimization, we need to look beyond diet and consider lifestyle.
We can all agree your cells and their function are dependent on protein, fats, carbohydrates, water, and trace minerals, therefore quality food means quality cells. No one is arguing against the importance of diet, however, reality suggests your environment, your sleep and your exercise habits will generate a free radical burden that diet alone cannot or will not overcome. As such, our cells may fail to completely overcome oxidative damage from our lifestyle or exposure to toxins (1). With this continued barrage of free radicals our cells will finally allow progressive damage limiting their function, how they communicate, and ultimately duplicate. All of this means we may need to take an approach beyond diet and consider the role of nutrient support.
Antioxidants sum this up perfectly
Diet should always be your first approach to well-being and healthy aging. In fact, food constituents and supplementation maximizing nutrients routinely found in research to optimize cellular health is a sound way to support the aging process and minimize the risk of age-related or environmental cellular decline (2). Research offers a ranking of many foods based on their nutrient density and antioxidant capacity. Total Antioxidant Capacity or TAC is the current way researchers look at the benefits of foods with high ORAC value. TAC, like ORAC value, helps the consumer and practitioner make food choices or recommendations because the value is based on total capacity vs. looking at one natural constituent or one constituents benefit alone.
Polyphenols, flavonoids, carotenoids, and essential amino acids repeatedly appear at the top of the ORAC list and subsequently with some of the highest TAC values listed for optimal cellular health. Polyphenols, which are responsible for rich color or pigment in the skins of fruits and vegetables, are the powerhouses of the superfood category. It is no wonder high ORAC ingredients like those from the skins of red wine grapes, bilberries, blueberries, pomegranate and elderberry and even antioxidant-rich bark like French Maritime Pine Bark ( Pycnogenol) are holding so much real-estate on the health food aisle.
Research supports the capacity of these constituents to regulate and assist DNA repair, aid in vascular protection, affect healthy cellular signaling, and more. (2-6) Current research and its positive findings make these “superfoods” or antioxidants a simple step toward improved circulation, immune function, and general well-being. (3-7)
When is it prudent to look to add to your healthy diet?
It is expected that we eat approximately 1g of polyphenols per day. (8) That is only true if you eat a diet based on the colors of the rainbow, which many do not make supplementation all the more important in certain populations without access to foods or resources. In addition, even if we have acceptable access to healthy food choices, we need to be an educated consumer. Processing methods such as sterilization, heating and even wrapping in plastic can be damaging to polyphenols.
By and large when we ask the question, “what is meaningful to my longevity?” The answer should be consuming foods or utilizing concentrated sources of high antioxidant superfoods through supplementation is not just prudent, it is necessary.
Superfood = Super Diversity = Super Antioxidant Capacity
1-Voeikov V: Reactive oxygen species: pathogens or sources of vital energy?, Journal of Alternative & Complementary Medicine 12(2):111-118, Mar 2006.
2- Rautiainen S, Lindblad BE, Morgenstern R, Wolk A. Total Antioxidant Capacity of the Diet and Risk of Age-Related CataractA Population-Based Prospective Cohort of Women. JAMA Ophthalmol. 2014;132(3):247–252. doi:10.1001/jamaophthalmol.2013.6241
3-Nijveldt R et al: Flavonoids: a review of probably mechanisms of action and potential applications, Am J Clin Nutr 74:418-25, 2001.
4- Shamitko N and Halpner A: Emerging new ingredients for cardiovascular health, poly methoxylated flavonoes, plant sterols and pomegranate, NutriNEWS Douglas labs, 2005.
5- Diebolt M et al: Polyphenols modulate calcium-independent mechanisms in human arterial tissue-engineered vascular media, J Vasc Surg Oct:46(4):764-72, 2007.
6- Tang FY et al: Green tea catechin inhibits ephrin-A1-mediated cell migration and angiogenesis of human umbilical vein endothelial cells, Nitric Oxide Jun:16(4):442-7, 2007.
7- Kumar S et al: Isoliquiritigenin inhibits IkappaBkinase activity and ROS generation to block TNF-alpha induced expression of cell adhesion molecules on human endothelial cells, Biochem Pharma May 15:73(10):1602-12, 2007.
8- Katz D et al: The effect of diet on endothelial function, Cardiol Rev Mar-Apr;15(2):62-6, 2007.
Dr. Mason is a Naturopathic Physician, emphasizing complementary approaches to chronic disease. A graduate of the National University of Natural Medicine, Dr. Mason uses a diverse combination of naturopathic medicine, western botanical medicine, physiotherapy, and conventional medical therapies to recover each individual’s full potential for wellness. She’s become well known in professional circles for her passionate lectures, commitment to quality patient care, and the advancement of professional education, both within and outside of her field.
- Licensed Naturopathic Physician- 20 years experience
- nEI-nutraMetrix Educational Institute-Clinical Director
- Director of nutraMetrix and Clinical Education
- Lifestyle Medicine Consulting practice since 2014