Aging and Longevity – 2. Oxidation
Oxidation is essential for human life. For example, energy production requires the oxidation of glucose into carbon dioxide, as well as its opposite – the ‘reduction’ of oxygen to water.
However, there are times when we don’t want oxidation to occur.
Essentially, oxidation is the removal of an electron from an atom or molecule. There are times when this electron removal serves to damage the molecule from which it is removed. This can result in damage to proteins, lipids, and the DNA of cells.
Free Radicals And Oxidation
Free radicals are naturally produced by many body processes. They are molecules which are hungry for an extra electron – they are powerful oxidising agents. The body has natural processes to deactivate free radicals. But if they become too numerous, they will oxidize important structures sucha as the brain, removing electrons and causing widespread damage.
As they an essential part of life, free radicals cannot be eliminated completely. However, through dietary and lifestyle changes we can minimize them.
What Problems Does Oxidation Cause?
As with inflammation, oxidation is involved in all major degenerative diseases. These include heart and artery disease, cancers, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.
How Can We Avoid Oxidation
There are two approaches to avoiding oxidation:
- Making changes to reduce free radicals, and
- Maximising antioxidants.
1. Reducing Free Radicals
We can help to reduce the number of free radicals the body produces by:
- Eating a healthy diet with plenty of vegetables and moderate amounts of fruit
- Reduce exposures to toxins. This includes:
- avoiding cigarette smoke
- avoiding other chemicals and fumes in the air as far as possible
- eating organic foods to avoid chemicals added during growing, and
- removing the chlorine from water before drinking it.
- Avoiding anything but moderate exposure to sun. Direct sunlight on the skin produces large numbers of free radicals.
- Maintaining harmony and balance in our everyday lives, thus reducing stress to a minimum
- Avoiding low-grade inflammation, which generates many free radicals
Two additional things which increase oxidation are the process of aging, and extreme exercise. As we age, we need more antioxidants to mop up free radicals. So older people have more of a need to supplement their antioxidant intake.
Similarly, athletes have an increased need for antioxidants, because of the extra free radicals extreme exercise causes.
2. Maximising antioxidants
Antioxidants are are obtained from food and are made within the body.
Antioxidants From Food
These include vitamin C, vitamin D, beta-carotene and selenium. These are present in vegetables and in fruit. Green tea contains valuable antioxidants called catechins. Green tea is highly recommended as a regular regular drink. (Black tea has antioxidants too, but green tea is better. Take it without sugar or milk.)
By all means, supplement your diet with a top quality multi-mineral vitamin supplement. I recommend Life Extension Foundation’s ‘Life Extension Mix’. A good multi-mineral formula will also contain minerals which catalyse the processes of anti-oxidation; ie, they enable them without being used up themselves.
Antioxidants Made Within The Body
These include coenzyme Q10, alpha-lipoic acid [ALA] and N-acetylcysteine [NAC]. These are available to take in supplement form if desired.
More Antioxidants = Live Longer and Stay Healthier
Oxidation – loss of an electron – is a natural part of life. So are the presence of ‘free radicals’ – those elements which ‘steal’ these electrons. But, however natural it may be, we greatly benefit from keeping oxidation to a minimum.
This is where we can act: to keep to a minimum those situations which cause free radicals to be formed; and to take foods and supplements which maximise our supply of anti-oxidants.
By doing this we will stay healthier for longer and age more healthily.
The 4 ‘-ations’ – Vital Indicators of Health
The 4 ‘-ations’ of which oxidation is one – the others are methylation, glycation and inflammation - are four processes which are very damaging to the cells of our body. We have the power to reduce these processes to a minimum and thus greatly reduce the likelihood of developing diseases such as cancer, heart and artery disease, Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes.