The following contains an excerpt from Michael Weiner’s “The Antioxidant Cookbook” (1995). Dr. Michael Weiner’s history of teaching school children at various levels comes across in his writing as he can take a complex subject and make it easy to digest without lowering your intelligence level.
In the following excerpt related to antioxidants and carotenoids, you will find an interesting fact related to the preservation of LDL. Now wouldn’t that simple bit of research be of interest to people who believe that LDL is simply the “bad” cholesterol?
Dr. Weiner is the popular radio talk show host, Michael Savage. Read on and enjoy being for a moment in the Savage classroom.
But – What does that mean? And – Why is it important?
Antioxidant. A powerful word. Simply explained, the body’s cells, during the normal metabolic process—called oxidation—of burning fuel (food) to produce energy for all the organs and systems, produces free radicals. These free radicals are a normal byproduct of the oxidation process. In today’s world, due to our extraordinary exposure to pollution, environmental toxins, carbon monoxide over-exposure to the sun’s rays and other threatening elements, our production of free radicals has increased beyond what our cells were designed to handle.
This excessive amounts of free radical elements in our bodies leads to premature aging neurological disorders, cancer, cataracts, other diseases, and death before our time. So, the key is to diminish free radical production, or destroy the free radicals!
Leave a cut piece of apple on your kitchen counter for a few hours and observe the changes. The browning of the fruit, the puckering of the skin. This shows all too clearly how free radicals can ravage our interior and exterior beings. Or, imagine a rusty piece of metal. Same concept. Over-oxidation.
Antioxidants are substances that help prevent the
production of free radicals. It’s that simple…
We now know many of the antioxidants. In order of importance, they are: vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, Beta and Alpha Carotene (also known as the carotenoids), Lycopene, and Lutein. It has been demonstrated conclusively in scientific studies that the addition of antioxidant nutrients to the human diet will assist with the prevention of disease and premature aging…
Alpha and Beta Carotene (Carotenoids)
You have no doubt heard and read about the health benefits of Beta-Carotene. Over 70 studies conducted worldwide show that people lower their risk for cancer if they eat sufficient amounts of carotene. Epidemiological evidence supports the premise that carotenoids offer protection against certain types of cancer due to their antioxidant activity. Yet only recently the scientific community and general public recognize the relationship of free-radicals and antioxidants to health. Free radicals are unstable molecules with unpaired electrons that damage cell membranes and cause cell mutations. Antioxidants inhibit free radicals. This intensive view of inner cellular warfare may hold the keys to protecting humankind against premature aging and the associated diseases of aging.
Let us now focus on that remarkable class of compounds—the carotenoids- and see how some of them are more equal than others when it comes to cellular defense as it relates to antioxidant activity.
WHAT ARE CAROTENOIDS?
The carotenoids trap sunlight so that green plants can conduct photosynthesis. Remember, the collection of the sun’s energy by green plants and the conversion of carbon dioxide and water into glucose is the basis for life on earth! So to understand the carotenoids is to grasp the miracle and meaning of existence.
Technically carotenoids are classified as 40 carbon tetraterpenoids, but to the unaided eye they are the compounds that provide the brilliant colors found in nature. In flowers this rainbow of compounds mainly appear as yellow colors (as in daffodils, pansy, sunflowers); in fruit they project a red or orange color (rose hip, tomato, paprika, acerola, red pepper).
Carotenes were first discovered in 1831 in carrots, hence the name. There are now 563 known carotinoids. Of these, about 50 can be metabolized to Vitamin A (Retinole) by many animals. This conversion to vitamin A was once thought to be of importance only to nutritionists until the recent discoveries of the carotenes’ antioxidant properties.
HOW DO CAROTENOIDS ACT TO PROTECT OUR CELLS?
The carotenoids are readily oxidized (they lose or give up electrons) and so limit other oxidation reactions within cells. That is, the carotenoids figuratively “sacrifice themselves” in the oxygen wars so our cells may live!
Newer evidence shows that carotenoids not only act as passive players in the oxygen wars, but they also function actively as antioxidants by quenching various free-radicals that are generated inside cells…
ALPHA AND BETA CAROTENE
Newer evidence now shows that some carotenoids, especially Alpha-Carotene, have remarkable antioxidant activities. While Beta-Carotene generates vitamin A twice as efficiently as Alpha-Carotene, Alpha-Carotene is approximately ten times more powerful in inhibiting skin, lung, and liver carcinogenesis. The carotenoids may have highly specialized physiological functions, which may explain why Alpha-Carotene has been associated with lower cancer mortality in epidemiological studies, as well as anti-carcinogenic effects in animal studies.
In fact, one of the world’s leading cancer researchers, Dr. M. Murakoshi, has shown that Alpha-Carotene obtained from palm oil is more protective against carcinogens than Beta-Carotene. Indeed, Murakoshi found that the carotenes inhibited already present cancerous growths from further growths, particularly liver cancer.
The role of Alpha-Carotene in the quenching of singlet oxygen in blood plasma indicates this remarkable yet little known carotenoid can protect low density lipoprotein (LDL) from oxidation and thereby reduce the risk of heart attacks from arteriosclerosis and myocardial ischemia.
A very recent multicenter case-control study in nine European countries further supports the trend of medical reasoning. In a study of 683 people with acute myocardial infraction (MI or heart attack) and 727 people without a history of this disease, researchers found that the higher amounts of antioxidants in fat tissue reduce the risk of a first heart attack. In particular, high Beta-Carotene levels were found to be the most protective of the antioxidants studied. Low tissues levels of Beta-Carotene in smokers greatly increased the risk of MI, which suggests a relationship between oxidative stress, aging and many diseases, including heart attack. Other health benefits from alpha and Beta-Carotene may include a reduced risk of cataract.
Further evidence of the specialized nature of the carotenoids is demonstrated by the appearance of two carotenoids in the macular region of the retina where Beta-Carotene is totally absent. These two retina specific carotenoids are Zeaxanthin (a yellow pigment found in corn seeds, sweet red pepper, bitter orange peel and in green algae) and Lutein (found in the green leaves of all higher plants, also in algae in citrus rind, in apricot, peach, plum, apple, and cranberry).
HOW THE ANTIOXIDANTS COMPLEMENT
RATHER THAN COMPETE WITH ONE ANOTHER
Interestingly, just as foods work together so do the antioxidants. Professor Lester Packer of the University of California at Berkeley is one of the world’s pre-eminent
antioxidant researchers. He and coworkers recently demonstrated how carotenoids interact with vitamins E and C. Beta-Carotene, it was shown can protect LDL against oxidative damage even when vitamin E levels are low.
This is a variation on the old theme among nutritionists to “eat a wide variety of foods.” But it makes good sense because if we do eat widely of fruits and vegetables we gain from nature’s pharmacy her many protective substances, especially the carotenoids and flavonoids. [As of this writing] there is not a Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for carotenes. However the NCI (National Cancer Institute) guide recommends 6 mg of Beta-Carotene per day and some researchers believe the daily intake should be as high as 15 to 20 mg. Average daily consumption in the United States is 1.5 mg (according to U.S.D.A. studies). Now it is also true that we rarely eat consistently wisely, especially when we are busy and when we travel, which is why we take and recommend nutrients and other supplements.
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