Major contributors to the aging process are oxidation and the creation of free radicals. Fortunately there is a group of micro-nutrients that can counteract the damage caused by these processes.
You get your energy through a process called oxidation, which similar to what happens in a fire but at a much slower rate. Oxidation, like fire, damages surrounding tissues, and the higher the rate of oxidation, the greater the damage.
The damage from oxidation correlates with the negative effects of aging. For example, it is not the amount of cholesterol you have that causes cardiovascular disease but the oxidation of LDL cholesterol.
Antioxidants are a group of vitamins, minerals and enzymes that protect your biological systems from the ravages of oxidation. But the longer and harder you live, the more you overwhelm you natural antioxidant systems, so you need to give these a boost with nutritional supplements.
As well as damaging surrounding tissues, oxidation creates free radicals when energy is produced. Free radicals are fragments of oxygen.
The problem with free radicals is that they damage cell membranes, tamper with DNA, and even cause cell death. Some scientists believe that free radicals contribute to the aging process, as well as a number of health problems, including heart disease and cancer.
Fortunately, many antioxidants can neutralize free radicals and may reduce or even help prevent some of the damage they cause.
The most important antioxidants are vitamins C, A and E, alpha lipoic acid, CoQ10, Lutein and Lycopene.
Oxidative damage to cells can be repaired. Unfortunately the damage to telomeres from oxidation cannot be repaired.
Telomeres are repetitive strings of DNA found at the ends of chromosome pairs within cells. They were discussed in How & Why We Age.
Thus oxidation results in further shortening of the telomeres, driving the aging process.
As discussed in the previous article How to Beat Aging (1), vitamin C is the only substance that has been shown to preserve telomeres. But vitamin C also:
- fights free radicals before they do damage
- helps maintains body structure by being an important ingredient in collagen, the main structural protein of your connective tissues
- helps the immune system by stimulating antibodies
- helps the nervous system by contributing to the production of the amino acids that regulate that system; and
- helps the breakdown of histamines, the inflammatory elements of allergic reactions
Your body does not produce its own vitamin C so you have to ingest it in the food you eat.
You can get your minimum daily requirement from food alone. But to get enough for the anti-aging effect you need to take the massive doses mentioned in How to Beat Aging (1) … several thousand milligrams per day.
Adequate vitamin A is very important for maintaining a healthy and youthful body.
Indeed it is considered essential for good eyesight (which is always under threat especially if you are diabetic) by:
- preventing damage to the eye from free radicals (which cause night blindness) and
- lowering the risk of macular degeneration, the most common cause of blindness in the elderly.
Vitamin A supports your immune system which decreases your risk of lung and breast cancer. It also plays a key role in keeping your skin, hair and nails healthy.
Vitamin A is found in meat, liver, milk, eggs, carrots and spinach. As a diabetic following the beating-diabetes diet, you will not be eating any milk or eggs and will be eating only the leanest of meats.
Thus you should take a daily supplement containing 2,500 IU (international units) of vitamin A.
An essential nutrient for the body, vitamin E is a family of compounds consisting of four tocopherols (alpha, beta, gamma and delta) and four tocotrienols (alpha, beta, gamma and delta).
No matter what form it takes, vitamin E functions as an antioxidant.
Thus vitamin E protects cell membranes, active enzyme sites, and DNA from free radical damage.
As well as fighting free radicals that causes diseases of inflammation, such as rheumatoid arthritis, vitamin E helps to increase the circulation of the blood, thus lowering the risk of heart disease.
It also reduces the risk of cancers in the prostate, colon and breast.
Tocopherols are found in vegetable oils, nuts, fish and leafy green vegetables. Tocotrienols are found in certain vegetable oils, some seeds, nuts, grains, and the oils derived from them but only at low levels … thus a supplement is necessary.
It should be noted that too much of one tocopherol in the body can prevent the absorption of the other tocopherols. Thus your vitamin E supplement should contain a mix of the four tocopherols and the four tocotrienols.
The recommendation is 400 IU of vitamin E a day.
Alpha lipoic acid
Alpha lipoic acid (ALA) plays a vital part in the production of cellular energy.
ALA is one of the most effective fighters of free radicals. Indeed it is unique because it can fight free radicals in both the oil and water areas of cells … which is why it is sometimes called the ‘universal antioxidant’.
ALA lowers the risk of atherosclerosis, lung disease and neurological disorders by fighting the specific free radicals that contribute to these afflictions.
In addition, it recycles and extends the life of other free radical fighters such as vitamins C and E, and CoQ10.
Lipoic acid is present in almost all foods, but slightly more so in kidney, heart, liver, spinach, broccoli, and yeast extract. However the amount of lipoic acid present in dietary sources is very low. Hence the need for a daily supplement.
The recommended dose is 100mg of ALA a day.
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is a substance that helps convert food into energy. It is found in almost every cell in the body. Indeed you body cannot survive without the presence of CoQ10.
CoQ10 is a powerful antioxidant. As well as providing your organs with their energy it also protects them from the resulting oxidation by destroying the free radicals in cell membranes.
CoQ10 also prevents arteriosclerosis by protecting against the accumulation of oxidized fat in blood vessels.
Some researchers believe that CoQ10 may help with heart-related conditions (such as heart disease, high blood pressure and high cholesterol) because it can improve energy production in cells, prevent blood clot formation, and acts as an antioxidant.
Primary sources of CoQ10 include oily fish (such as salmon and tuna), organ meats (such as liver), and whole grains. Most people get enough CoQ10 through a normal balanced diet.
But supplements can only help people with particular health conditions or who wish to retard the onset of aging.
The recommended dosage is 30mg of CoQ10 per day.
Lutein is a carotenoid, a pigmented nutrient that is responsible for the yellow colours of fruits and vegetables.
Lutein protects you vision by neutralizing free radicals in the lens and retina. It also filters sunlight in order to prevent damage to the macula, the region of the retina that is responsible for your central vision; ie, it acts like sunglasses.
You’re born with a certain amount of lutein in your eye, but your body doesn’t reproduce it. Without adequate consumption, the amount of lutein in the eye may become depleted with age.
It also reduces the risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease by preventing the free radical damage that contributes to these diseases.
Since your body doesn’t make lutein, you must constantly replace it through the foods you eat. It is present in the highest quantities in dark, leafy green vegetables, red grapes, egg yolks, squash, peas and oranges.
However these sources do not provide the 6mg a day recommended as a minimum by leading doctors and a supplement is highly recommended.
For anti-aging purposes a dosage of 20mg of lutein a day is recommended.
Lycopene is a bright red pigment that is found in your liver, bloodstream, adrenal glands, lungs, prostate, colon, and skin at higher levels than other similar pigments.
In animal studies, lycopene has been found to have antioxidant effects and may also block the growth of cancer cells.
Studies on human subjects suggest that eating lycopene-rich foods or having high levels of lycopene in the body may:
- prevent coronary artery disease by preventing the oxidation of LDH (bad) cholesterol;
- reduce the risk of prostate and pancreatic cancer by fighting damage from free radicals; and
- reduce the risk of age-related eye disorders such as macular degeneration by neutralising free radicals in the eye.
However, the amount of lycopene ingested in these studies was based on eating tomatoes, not on taking lycopene supplements. Since tomatoes also contain other nutrients, such as vitamin C and potassium, the potential benefits of lycopene alone cannot be ascertained with certainty.
As well as tomatoes, Lycopene is found in other red fruits such as guava, peppers, watermelon and pink grapefruit. In addition to eating these regularly, anti-aging specialists recommend 20mg of lycopene as a supplement every day.
Note re antioxidants
You can get most of these micro-nutrients from food. However to get them in sufficient quantities to be effective as antioxidants, you need to take them as supplements.
With the exception of vitamin C, all these antioxidants are fat soluble so they are best taken with during a meal with a little oil or fat. Take them in the form of gel capsules.
Here’s a summary of recommended dosages:
- Vitamin C 1,000 to 2,000mg twice a day
- Vitamin A 2,500 IU once a day
- Vitamin E 400 IU once a day
- Alpha lipoic acid (ALA) 100 mg once a day
- Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) 30 mg once a day
- Lutein 20 mg once a day
- Lycopene 20 mg once a day