Important Antioxidants – Holistic Healthcare
By: Kevin J. Eisenhour, MSN, RN, CPhT
Cardiovascular disease continues to be the leading cause of death in the US. Recent studies found that reactive oxygen species have been incriminated in the pathogenesis of both acute and chronic heart disease. Many botanicals possess antioxidant properties, and these herbal antioxidants may protect against cardiovascular disease by contributing to the total antioxidant defense system of the human body (Wang, Mehendale, & Yuan 2007).
Literature from the contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration (2009) elucidates that antioxidants are molecules that work to prevent damage that occurs in cells and body tissues due to both normal bodily processes and exposure to some chemicals. The potential medical benefit of antioxidants may reside in their ability to prevent or slow the oxidation of molecules in DNA and proteins. Oxidation reactions may produce molecular substances referred to as “free radicals” which potentially cause chain reactions that can damage many cells in the body. Cumulative effects of many oxidation reactions may irreversibly damage the body. Free radicals are considered dangerous because they are atoms with an unstable number of electrons, which makes them more reactive than atoms with a stable number of electrons. These unstable atoms may take electrons from other atoms, such as those that make up DNA or proteins. With the loss of electrons from parts of the cell, impaired cellular function occurs, and DNA mutation may result due to the effects of free radicals (Natural Standard Research Collaboration, 2009).
The contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration (2009) write that antioxidants may stop the free radical-caused chain reactions by neutralizing the electrical charge due to the unstable number of electrons, thereby stopping the process of damage and protecting the body cells and tissues. The human body may require a variety of antioxidants to reduce the impact of the free radicals created by oxidation reactions.
In addition to being found in a variety of fruits and vegetables, the Natural Standard Research Collaboration (2009) asserts that antioxidants are available today as one of the most popular nutritional supplements which include Coenzyme Q10. Bagchi (1997) writes that Coenzyme Q10 is a lipid soluble benzoquinone which has been demonstrated to possess excellent antioxidant and cardiac tissue membrane stabilizing properties. It has been demonstrated by Scientists that people afflicted with heart disease have an alarmingly low supply of Coenzyme Q10. Therefore, says Bagchi (1997), because of aging, the body loses its ability to assimilate and synthesize sufficient Coenzyme Q10 from foods, it is very important to supplement with Coenzyme Q10 as the preferred source.
Bagchi (1997) contends that Coenzyme Q10 acts as the catalyst that allows the body to produce energy at the cellular level which enhances the immune system. Being an important regulator of the cardiovascular system, Coenzyme Q10 is described as a restorative for homeostasis in the heart and blood vessels. According to Bagchi (1997), Coenzyme Q10 is indispensable to biochemical mechanisms of bioenergetics. Coenzyme Q10 has a specific role as an antioxidant, having demonstrated hematological activity and has shown an influence on the human host defense system. Consequently, Coenzyme Q10 potentiates trans-plasma membrane electron transport system which influences healthy tissue regeneration, cell growth, and viability. Bagchi (1997) declares that the heart is the most susceptible of all body organs to premature aging and free radical oxidative stress. Since cardiac ischemia and reperfusion injury
are associated with the development of oxidative stress and free radical scavengers, antioxidants have been shown to be beneficial for ischemic myocardium. Bagchi (1997) proclaims the hypothesis that stimulation of Coenzyme Q10 may protect hearts from ischemia-reperfusion injury. Additionally, Coenzyme Q10 has been acknowledged to have profound advantageous effects in the following areas:
- Strengthens the heart, even without exercise.
- Protects against cardiovascular dysfunction.
- Normalizes blood pressure.
- Helps to reduce body weight.
- Attenuates immune function.
- Enhances stamina, endurance, and energy levels.
- Contributes to life extension
Another antioxidant is Green Tea (Camellia sinensis). In their literature, Wang, Mehendale, & Yuan (2007) indicate that tea is one of the most ancient and the second most widely consumed beverage in the World. Based upon chemical studies, green tea contains polyphenolic compounds with catechins being the most predominant groups of substances accounting for 16 to 30 percent of the dry weight. The major catechins are: (1) (-) –epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), (2) (-)-epigallocatechin (EGC), (3) (-)-epicatechin-3-gallate (ECG), and (4) (-)-epicatechin (EC). EGCG [(-)-epigallocatechin-3-gallate] is the principal catechin and is thought to be responsible for much of the biological activity mediated by green tea. Polyphenols in green tea are composed of EGC, EC, and gallic acid (GA) such as EGCG (EGC + GA) and ECG (EC +
GA). These combined units, EGC, EC, and GA are structures of phenols, and this series of structures is easily oxidized.
According to Wang, Mehendale, & Yuan (2007), compounds that are easier to oxidize are oftentimes better antioxidants, as is true of green tea. The catechol group reacts readily with oxidants in the form of free radical reactive oxygen species to form a stable radical, the semiquinone radical. The compounds with catechol or 1, 4-dihydroquinone functionality are especially easy to oxidize because the resulting phenoxyl radical can be stabilized on another oxygen molecule.
Wang, Mehendale, & Yuan (2007) assert that green tea and its major constituents have multifaceted functions. During the past decade, a great deal of awareness has been focused on the antioxidant, cardiovascular disease and fatty-acids synthase, lipid oxidation in LDL, antimutagenic, anticancer, and antiviral actions of green tea. Most of these actions have been attributed to its antioxidant and free radical scavenging properties, particularly to the high content of polyphenolic compounds and microelements. Furthermore, writes Wang, Mehendale, & Yuan (2007), green tea polyphenol is recognized to be an excellent antioxidant that directly scavenges free radicals and inhibits lipid peroxide formation. Additional valuable functions and utilization of green tea includes the following:
- Green tea extract has been shown to protect against cardiovascular and renal diseases in several in vitro and in vivo studies.
- Green tea catechins delay the oxidation reactions by inhibiting the formation of free radicals or interrupting the propagation of the free radical chain reaction caused by toxic compounds, attenuating the progression of atherosclerosis and thrombosis.
- Green tea catechin derivatives have been confirmed to be protective agents in cardiovascular disease.
- Increased consumption of green tea is correlated with decreased total serum cholesterol and triglyceride levels and is, therefore, inversely related to the risk of coronary artery disease. Epidemiological studies illustrate that individuals who consume four or more cups of green tea per day lower their risk of atherosclerosis and coronary artery disease.
(Wang, Mehendale, & Yuan, 2007)
Mindell (2000) writes that Glutathione is one of the most universal and important antioxidants, particularly renowned for its detoxification properties. It is found in the cells of almost all living organisms and represents the front line of the body’s antioxidant defenses. In fact, says Mindell (2000), an individual could not survive without it. Specifically, Glutathione seizes free radicals before they start chain reactions followed by neutralization and passes them on to compounds such as vitamin E before starting the cycle again. Additionally, Glutathione binds to toxic substances in the liver, aiding in their excretion, while neutralizing the free radicals that are threatening to red blood cells. When there is a sufficient supply of Glutathione’s three amino acid components, Glutathione is constantly renewable, extremely abundant, and highly active in the body. Of the three amino acids, cysteine is the one that a person is most likely to be deficient in, and can be taken in supplement form, NAC (N-acetylcysteine). In contrast, a study of elderly people in England, says Mindell (2000), revealed that higher blood cholesterol levels, higher body weight, and a 24 percent higher rate of illness and death were all related to low levels of glutathione. Additionally, aging causes Glutathione levels to fall. Vitamin C and E supplements and Selenium can help to ensure that Glutathione works efficiently in the body.
Procyanidolic oligomers (PCOs) are bioflavonoids and encompass the following properties:
- Improves blood circulation.
- Strengthen blood vessel walls and prevent the coagulation of blood-clotting substances, providing protection against cerebrovascular accidents.
- Preempts LDL cholesterol oxidation.