The Antioxidant Network Advantage: Improve and Protect the Function of Your Brain & Body

In has taken me a surprisingly long time to research antioxidants. The materials I initially found on the subject were not very good. This was a surprise to me. I have heard the term antioxidant many times in advertisements and news articles. However, when I really tried to nail down the role of antioxidants in creating and maintaining health, I found much of the material vague, conflicting and unhelpful. And then I found two awesome books:

The Antioxidant Miracle was written by Lester Packer Ph.D. a cellular biologist whom has studied antioxidants for decades at University of California Berkeley. Making a Good Brain Great was written by Daniel G. Amen, M.D. He is a psychiatrist that is the medical director of Amen Clinics. The Amen Clinics specialize in using SPECT scans to evaluate and treat psychiatric and neurological issues.

What I have surmised after looking through all the information I found concerning antioxidants is that the medical community has not yet come to a consensus concerning the role of antioxidants. This may be because the role of antioxidants in our bodies has proven to be complex, studies of individual antioxidants have been mostly positive, but mixed, and the technology, which has allowed mankind to study antioxidants, is relatively new. Scientists are still trying to create a framework for studying antioxidants:

Checkout this article: Antioxidant Controversy: Scientists Seek Measurement Standards

In some ways antioxidants have defied conventional clinical studies, because there is an interplay between many molecules. Until recently, scientists believed that each antioxidant worked separately in the body, independently of the others; and many of the studies concerning antioxidants have studied individual antioxidants. Now we know there is a dynamic interplay among certain key antioxidants…These special network antioxidants work together in our bodies to strengthen us and protect us from disease.[1]

Only in the last century has the technology neccessary to study antioxidant’s function in cells been avilable. Antioxidants are single molecules, an electron microscope is required to view them. In 1931, a German physician named Ernst Ruska and an electrical engineer named Max Knoll constructed the first electron microscope. It used a particle beam of electrons to illuminate the specimen. The first electron microscope was only capable of 400 power magnification, which was not a greater resolution than light microscopes could provide. However, two years later, in 1933, Ruska built an electron microscope that exceeded the resolution attainable with an optical (lens) microscope. The Siemens company procured the patent for the electron microscope and, 1937, Siemens financed pioneering efforts to develop application for the microscope; and in 1939 Siemens produced the first commercial Transmission Electron Microscope. Electron microscopes have greater resolving power than a light-powered optical microscope. Electrons have wavelengths about 100,000 times shorter than visible light, and can achieve better than 0.2 nm resolution, which makes magnifications up to 2,000,000x possible. In comparison, Light microscopes are only useful for magnifications 2000x and below.[2] 

This was the technology that allowed Lester Packard, Ph.D. and his colleagues to study the smallest components of cells and study how they interacted and worked. It was the study of biological oxidation that revealed the importance of antioxidants.

Oxygen has been shown to be a dangerous friend.  The human body requires ample amounts of oxygen for metabolism, the breakdown of nutrients to create the energy for growth and other body activity, from breathing to thinking, from having sex to keeping our hearts beating. Oxygen is the fuel that turns on energy production. Without oxygen, we could not make energy. Yet the production of energy can wreak havoc in the body because it also produces free radicals. The antioxidants network defends the body against free radicals. There are literally hundreds of naturally occurring of antioxidants. However, there are 5 key antioxidants:

  1. vitamin c
  2. vitamin e
  3. CoQ10
  4. lipoic acid
  5. glutathione

These are the network antioxidants. They work together to bolter and strengthen the entire system. These antioxidants are special because they can regenerate, one another after they have quenched a free radical, vastly extending their antioxidant power.

Free radicals constantly form almost everywhere in the body at an astonishing rate. If free radicals are not quickly trapped, they can cause a great deal of trouble. Free radicals can attack and oxidize DNA, the genetic material that controls cell growth and development, which can increase the likelihood of cancer. When these unstable molecules target fat molecules traveling in the bloodstream, they set the stage for heart disease and stroke. Therefore, free radicals can promote the downward spiral of disease and premature aging. As we age, the antioxidant network becomes overwhelmed with work. One reason is that our antioxidant levels decline. Also, pollution, smoking, poor diet, and other unhealthy influences may have added to the free radical challenge confronting the antioxidant network. [3]

Ingesting antioxidants has the potential to protect and improve the function of our minds and bodies. However, the medical community has not embraced ingesting antioxidant supplements. The following is a quote from Making a Good Brain Great:[4]

Most medical students are taught that people do not need vitamins and supplements. If you eat a balance diet, they are told, you get all the nutrients needed. I was told this in medical school, and the mantra is still being disseminated twenty-seven years later. The one problem with this advice is that no one I know have a balanced diet…Having reviewed the medical research on prevention and supplementation, I take high-potency multiple vitamins every day, along with extra vitamin C and E, ginko biloba, alpha-lipoic acid, phoshphatidal serine, acetyl-l-carnitine, CoQ10, and fish oil…These preventive actions are a part of my life because enough research supports use of these strategies to have the best brain and body possible… One of the keys to a great brain is to use prevention and supplementation strategies as early and wisely as possible.

Of course it would be preferable if science had unraveled all of the mysteries of the universe and we knew exactly what to do to live the highest quality life possible. However, I am alive now. I am getting older every day and I have to make choices now concerning how I am going to live my life, regardless of the maturity of the medical community and scientific research.

Checkout this article: Consumer Demand For Antioxidants Has Outpaced Scientific Knowledge

This is where I question our approach, as a community, to creating and maintaining wellness. We have excellent evidence in favor of supplementing diet with antioxidants, the health benefits appear to be astounding, the risks are minimal, and yet we are not actively promoting use of antioxidant supplements. In fact we are actively, deter people from utilizing antioxidants to obtain excellent health. In 2010, Pom Wonderful Pomegranate Juice had a class action lawsuit filed against it concerning the claimed health benefits.

 Checkout this article: Pom Wonderful Pomegranate Juice Class Action Lawsuit Complaint

Pomegranate Juice is an antioxidant, because of this it may be a wonderful aid in obtaining excellent health. 

Checkout this article: Pomegranate Juice May Clear Clogged Arteries

Ambiguity is part of life. Apart from medicine, I often have to make choices with incomplete information. We all have to deal with ambiguity. However, in the case of medicine there is little tolerance for ambiguity. We, as a community, care so deeply about health that we fail to make logic decisions in the face of incomplete information. Instead we default to what is established and accepted. So… this is where bravery comes in. You can live according to what you understand and stretch to gain a greater understanding, or you can follow the limitations of the status quo of your time.

Additional evidence of the benefits of antioxidants have been provided by SPECT scans, single photon emission computed tomography. A SPECT scan is nuclear medicine tomographyic imaging technique that uses gamma rays. SPECT scans are very new. They have provided a window into the inner working of the mind.

What are Brain SPECT Imaging Scans? | Amen Clinics

The following is a quote from Making a Good Brain Great:[5]

A number of studies have shown that dietary intake of antioxidants from fruit and vegetables significantly reduces the risk of developing cognitive impairment. The research was done because it was theorized that free radical formation plays a major role in deterioration of the brain with age. When a cell coverts oxygen into energy, tiny molecules called free radicals are made…When produced in toxic amounts, free radicals damage the body’s cellular machinery, resulting in cell death and tissue damage. This process is called oxidative stress.

In numerous places in the book, Dr. Amen refers to the benefits of antioxidants to brain function.  The following quote stood out:[6]

The prettiest brains I have seen are those on ginko. Ginkgo biloba, from the Chinese ginko tress, is a powerful antioxidant that is best known for its ability to enhance circulation, memory, and concentration.

Supplements have to power to improve brain function.

Psychiatrist Dr Daniel Amen prefers natural treatments

Brain function is critical:

Daniel Amen – Change Your Brain Change Your Life 1-8

The following in the antioxidant supplement regimen that was recommended by Dr. Packer:

The Antioxidant Advantage Supplement Regimen[6]

 

Your A.M. Supplement Regimen

 

                Vitamin E Family – tocotrienols (100 mg)

 

                Vitamin E Family – mixed tocopherols (200 mg)

 

                CoQ10 (30 mg)

 

                Lipoic Acid (50 mg)

 

                ester vitamin C (250 mg)

 

                Folic Acid (400 mcg)

 

                Biotin (300 mcg)

 

                Vitamin B6 (2mg)

 

                Selenium (200 mcg)

 

Your P.M. Supplement Regimen

 

                Vitamin E Family – natural alpha tocopherol (200mg)

 

                Lipoic Acid (50 mg)

 

                ester vitamin C (250 mg)

 

                Ginko Biloba (30 mg)

 

While I acknowledge that supplementing my diet with antioxidants is not a practice that is recognized and accepted by all of the medical establishments, I will be taking antioxidant supplements myself. I want to have a brilliant mind and an healthy body. I hope this article has given you more context to think through whether you want antioxidants supplements to be part of your regimen.


[1] The Antioxidant Miracle, page 9


[3] The Antioxidant Miracle, page 16-17, 21, 24


[4] Making a good brain great, pg 192


[5] Making a good brain great, pg 97


[6] The Antioxidant Miracle, page 188

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~ by happydeviant on March 28, 2011.

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