Free radicals are damaged molecules that have lost an electron and become unstable. To correct the balance, a damaged molecule will steal an electron from another molecule in a nearby cell and the process begins again. There are over 1100 different families of free radicals attacking our bodies in different ways on a daily basis – they are in the air, your food and drink, tobacco smoke, pesticides and other pollutants.
The best description I have read about describing this process is by Stephen Cherniske in his book The Metabolic Plan: "Imagine there's a dance where everyone has a partner. The room is "stable", and everyone is happy. Suddenly the door opens, and here's this fellow without a date. Not only is he alone (unpaired), but he's incredibly good-looking. So this guy goes over and steals some other guy's date. That guy is now unpaired (and angry), so he tries to cut in on another couple. And before you know it, the entire dance floor is filled with guys fighting over the available girls. In your body, free radicals wreak similar havoc."
The really bad news is that we also produce these free radicals ourselves. Controllable amounts of free radicals are formed during normal cellular functions – basically they are exhaust fumes. Excess free radicals can result from allergic reactions, emotional upsets, overexposure to the sun, excessive exercise and even an excess of fats and alcohol.
Free radicals are known to be the most common cause of tissue damage and in more than 6000 scientific studies they have been linked to every known disease. This damage is also visible as it also causes the signs of ageing.
With the more recent boom in the nutritional supplement industry, most people have heard of or are aware of antioxidants. There has also been a substantial amount of publicity about the benefits of improving your daily diet and lifestyle. Not only are these healthy eating campaigns being endorsed by celebrities but by local councils and governments as well, and the shift to preventative medicine has been financially accepted as the way forward.
We are now being encouraged to eat more fresh fruit and vegetables, to buy local and organic produce, consume less salt, eat fewer fats, drink less alcohol, give up smoking and of course to get more exercise.
So, with these preventative measures do we need antioxidants ??? Yes we do – mainly because most of us are very slow in making these lifestyle changes, and even if we were to make all of the changes needed, the world around us will take longer to catch up. It will be many years before changes can be seen with regards to air pollution, exhaust fumes, food contaminants – as well as the depletion of nutrients in our food from exhaustive farming.
Antioxidants work by supporting your body by neutralizing free radicals. But to tackle the wide variety of free radicals, you’ll need more than one type of antioxidant if you want to stay healthy and keep looking young.
Not all antioxidants are the same though and it is worth taking your time to choose one that is right for you and your needs. Neways recently sent samples of their antioxidant products to be tested to find out what their ORAC scores are.
What is ORAC ? It stands for Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity, which is a scientific way of saying “How well does a food help my body fight off conditions like cancer and heart disease ?”. This system was developed by the National Institute on Aging in Baltimore, Maryland.
ORAC scores are used by nutritionalists to identify foods which offer a higher absorbency rate to absorb these free radicals – so the more oxygen a food can absorb, the higher the ORAC score.
Studies into the benefits of consuming foods with high ORAC scores have shown;
- it raises the antioxidant power of the human blood 10 to 25 per cent;
- prevents some loss of long-term memory and assisted learning ability in middle aged rats;
- maintains the ability of brain cells in middle aged rats to respond to a chemical stimulus – a function which normally decreases with age;
- protects rats tiny blood vessel capillaries against oxygen damage.
These results have prompted speculation that the ORAC measure may help define the dietary requirements needed to help prevent tissue damage, to help slow down the signs of aging and prevent conditions such as cancer and heart disease.
The trials and tests being done on antioxidants and the evidence produced, have prompted increasing sales in antioxidant food supplements. While several large studies have shown mixed results concerning individual antioxidants, it is becoming apparent that combinations of nutrients on foods have a greater effect that each nutrient taken alone.
These studies have also reported that individual plant derived antioxidants, called flavonoids, are thought to have protective powers. So far there have been about 4000 flavonoids identified. High ORAC diets have been linked to the protection of nerve cells within the brain against the effects of ageing. Researchers have concluded that motor and memory loss cannot be prevented completely, but high ORAC diets help prevention and management of these age related conditions.
Below is a selection of items tested with their ORAC score, based on average TE per g values, listed in order of highest value first;
Blueberry – 24
Blackberry – 20.5
Garlic – 19.25
Strawberry – 17.5
Kale – 17.5
Spinach – 12.6
Brussels Sprouts – 9.8
Broccoli Floret – 9.5
Plum – 9.25
Alfalfa Sprouts – 9
Beetroot – 8.5
Red Pepper – 8
Red Grape – 8
Orange – 8
Cherry – 6.75
Kiwi Fruit – 6.5
Pink Grapefruit – 4.75
White Grape – 4.5
Onion – 4
Corn – 3.6
Cauliflower – 3.5
When tested along side these, Neways antioxidants (2 capsules of each) produced the following scores;
Revenol – 800
Cascading Revenol – 3600
The current recommended daily amount of ORAC antioxidants is between 3000 and 5000.