Which Antioxidants Do I Take?
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Health Alert 36
Patients often ask me, “Doctor, which vitamins do you take?” This is what I tell them:
• I have taken a multivitamin every day for 30 years.
• Periodically, I have to change the formula that I take. The adjustments reflect changes in the science of nutrition and preventative medicine.
• The most important change in the last 10 years has been the addition of antioxidants.
Antioxidants are your body’s free radical fighters. Free radicals are fragments of oxygen, which are byproducts of normal metabolic processes. Free radicals destroy the cells in your body. Along with a multivitamin, I take the following antioxidants. They should become a part of your regimen too.
* Vitamin A *
Vitamin A is in a family of compounds called carotenoids. It is fat-soluble and very important for health maintenance. Vitamin A is best known for aiding in good eyesight. But this vitamin does much more. Here are some other attributes of Vitamin A:
• Prevents night blindness by preventing free radical damage in the eye.
• Acts as a powerful free radical scavenger in fat soluble tissues
• Lowers the risk of macular degeneration, which is the most common cause of blindness in the elderly.
• Decreases the risks of lung and breast cancer by supporting the immune system.
• Maximizes skin health by playing a key role in the integumentary system.
Vitamin A can be found naturally in meat, milk, eggs, liver, carrots, and spinach. I recommend taking 2,500 IU of Vitamin A per day.
* Vitamin E *
The term Vitamin E is actually a generic word for a group of eight compounds. These compounds include four types of tocopherols and 4 types of tocotrienols. Put simply, tocopherols and tocotrienols are specific types of Vitamin E. Vitamin E has been shown to:
• Fight free radicals that cause diseases of inflammation (such as rheumatoid arthritis)
• Lower risk of heart disease by increasing blood circulation
• Lower risk of cancers in the prostate, colon , and breast
The best way to get Vitamin E is as a mix of the four tocopherols and the four tocotrienols. It is important to note that too much of one tocopherol in the body can stop the absorption of the other tocopherols. So a good mix is to your greatest advantage. I recommend 400 IU of Vitamin E a day.
* Vitamin C *
Vitamin C was discovered over 70 years ago. Since then, it has gained a reputation as a preventative for colds. But it has more important tasks. Vitamin C is required for many of the body’s life-sustaining functions. Humans are among only a handful of animals that do not naturally produce Vitamin C. So we have to get Vitamin C from our diet. Here are some of Vitamin C’s important functions:
• Fights free radicals before they can do damage
• Maintains body structure by being an important ingredient in collagen (collagen’s integrity is dependent on Vitamin C)
• Helps the immune system by stimulating antibodies and other immune system cells
• Aids the nervous system by contributing to the production of amino acids that regulate the nervous system.
• Helps to break down histamines with are the inflammatory element of allergic reactions
Vitamin C is found in an array of foods including oranges, strawberries, broccoli, and bell peppers. For antioxidant amounts of Vitamin C, you’ll have to take additional amounts in supplement form. I recommend 500 mg twice a day. Take it with food to avoid an upset stomach.
* Alpha Lipoic Acid *
Alpha lipoic acid (ALA) was discovered in 1951. It plays a vital part in the production of cellular energy. It has been dubbed the “Universal Antioxidant” because of its ability to fight free radicals in both the fatty and water areas of cells. Here are some other functions of ALA:
• Lowers the risk of atherosclerosis, lung disease, and neurological disorders by fighting the specific free radicals that contribute to these afflictions.
• Recycles and extends the life of other free radicals like Vitamin C, E, and CoQ10.
ALA is most commonly found in red meat. I recommend taking 100 mg of alpha lipoic acid every day.
* Coenzyme Q10 *
I have talked about Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) in past Health Alerts. CoQ10 is crucial in the creations of energy that cells use to exist. CoQ10 is produced naturally in the body. The body cannot survive without the presence of CoQ10. Coenzyme Q10 is has also been found to:
• Destroy free radicals in the cell membranes.
• Preventing arteriosclerosis by protecting against the accumulation of oxidized fat in blood vessels.
• Successfully treats heart disease, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.
CoQ10 is found in fish and in the organ meats of animals. I recommend taking 30 mg of CoQ10 every day.
* Lutein *
Like Vitamin A, Lutein is a member of the carotenoid family. It is a one of several carotenoids that makes pigment in vegetables. It also contributes to pigment in your retina. Lutein is a crucial part of eye health. Lutein:
• Protects vision by neutralizing free radical in the lens and retina of the eye.
• Acts like sunglasses by shielding the eye from harmful sunlight.
• Lowers the risk of certain cancer and cardiovascular disease by stopping free radical damage that contributes to these diseases.
Lutein can be found in red grapes, egg yolks, squash, peas, and oranges. I recommend taking 20 mg of lutein every day.
* Lycopene *
Lycopene is also part of the carotenoid family. It is the pigment in many vegetables. And is most commonly found in tomatoes. Once absorbed, lycopene is widely distributed in the body. It is concentrated most in the liver, lungs, prostate, colon, and skin. Lycopene’s many functions include:
• Prevents coronary artery disease by stopping the oxidation of LDH (bad) cholesterol.
• Reduces the risk of prostate and pancreatic cancers by fighting free radical damage.
• Aids in preventing macular degeneration by neutralizing free radicals in the eye.
Lycopene is found in tomatoes, guava, peppers, watermelon, and pink grapefruit. I recommend taking 20 mg of lycopene a day for maximum health.
All of these antioxidants except for Vitamin C are oil soluble. All the oil soluble antioxidants should be taken in gel cap form. Try to find as many of them as you can together in a single supplement. Take them with a teaspoon of flaxseed oil or peanut butter for best absorption. Or taking them during a meal with fat will do the trick.
Al Sears MD