I have a very special article to share with you today! University professor and registered dietitian Chuck Balzer has graciously offered to share his incredibly article entitled, “Antioxidants and Disease Prevention.” This well-written article is both educational and insightful.
I hope you enjoy it, and learn the importance of antioxidants
and phytochemicals within a healthy diet.
By: Chuck Balzer, MS RDN CNS
Regardless of what media outlet one receives their health and medical information from it is likely that the term “antioxidant” is a familiar one. Since the 1980’s, antioxidants have been a star topic that is ubiquitous in the field of nutrition and disease.
What are these compounds and how do they function in the body?
Oxygen is obviously essential for life on earth, including the survival of humans. However, the utilization of oxygen does come with a price. During the process of oxygen usage, unstable molecules known as free radicals are created at the cellular level. These free radicals act in a “chain reaction” fashion, stealing stable electron partners from other paired electrons; resulting in instability. The damage occurring as a result of these compounds has been associated with well-over 100 diseases; including heart disease, cancer, and even the aging process. It is estimated that each of the trillions of cells in the human body take 10,000 so called oxidative “hits” per second! If it were not for our ability to protect against this, our bodies would degenerate at an extreme rate. Antioxidant nutrients play a key role in our ability to protect against this oxidative damage.
The most popular nutrients in this category are vitamins E & C, along with beta-carotene; however, these are far from alone. Plants produce compounds known as phytochemicals (phyto means “plant” in Greek) that are also referred to also phytonutrients; since so many have been found to have health promoting properties. There are now estimated to be as many as 4,000 phytochemicals in nature. Scientists researching these components point to the protective properties for the plant’s own survival against excess exposure to oxygen and sunlight. When humans ingest these foods – they derive unique – but comparable benefits.
The human body also produces a multitude of antioxidant compounds, including glutathione, lipoic acid, and coenzyme Q10. However, research findings continue to show that this production is insufficient for optimal defense against oxidative damage, thus making the receiving of adequate amounts via the diet all the more imperative for good health.
Note: Research has also shown that aerobic exercise can boost the endogenous production of antioxidants by the body.
Chocolate, coffee, wine… as “health foods”?
Individuals may feel frustrated and perplexed when foods that were historically deemed unhealthy continuously receive positive study findings regarding disease prevention. Perhaps the proper response to this is not to completely change perspective and respect for the science of nutrition, but to realize that all of these foods are of plant origin and thus contain the aforementioned phytochemical / antioxidant components!
It is clear that a plant based diet, appropriate physical activity, and a well-researched, adequately dosed multi-nutrient formula containing a broad-spectrum of antioxidant compounds can be an ideal foundation for wellness and disease prevention
I would like to thank Professor Balzer for sharing such an insightful and interesting article
with myself and all of you!
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