The optimal anti-oxidant
The way to measure an appropriate or ‘optimal’ anti-oxidant is not only by its ability to counteract free radicals but primarily by its safety and versatility, say Dr Vladimir Badmaev and Dr Muhammed Majeed in the concluding part
Health and Disease-II
To support the anti-oxidant system of the body, we may resort to supplemental vitamins, minerals and natural compounds such as phenolics or flavonoids, which have the ability to counteract free radical damage. Measured anti-oxidant supplementation is particularly recommended when the anti-oxidant defense is gradually overwhelmed despite proper nutritional and behavioural modifications.
This negative occurrence may be due to the aging process, disease, the wear and tear of daily pressures, or from forcible physical exercise, as in the case of professional athletes.
The way to measure an appropriate or ‘optimal’ anti-oxidant is not only by its ability to counteract free radicals but primarily by its safety and versatility (first do no harm). Effective and safe anti-oxidants scavenge free radicals at the cost of becoming weak and short-lived free radicals themselves. Ideally, these ‘second-hand’ free radicals should be unreactive products, and should not pose a health hazard. Some synthetic anti-oxidants like BHT or BHA commonly used in the food industry, although powerful scavengers, result in the formation of long-lasting ‘second hand’ free radicals.
The other important aspect of an effective and safe anti-oxidant’s use is to remember that ‘more’ is not necessarily ‘better.’ This means that the anti-oxidant should be used in a quantity that preserves the balance in the body, without shifting that balance into inhibiting the physiological or natural oxidative processes. A useful addition to the vocabulary on effective and safe anti-oxidants is the term ‘bioprotectant.’
Anti-oxidants with bioprotectant effects have been defined in laboratory analyses to show that they can prevent free radicals formation in the first place and intervene to neutralize free radicals which have already been formed. This definition of bioprotectant activity is based on original research by the authors in cooperation with Rutgers University in New Jersey.
The three main phenolic anti-oxidants, or curcuminoids, that were isolated from turmeric root (Curcuma longa fam. Zingiberaceae) in specific proportions, ie. curcumin, demethoxy curcumin and bisdemethoxy curcumin fit into the definition of an anti-oxidant compound that is also a bioprotectant. It should be noted that relatively few anti-oxidants nutrients have bioprotectant activities, and most natural and synthetic anti-oxidants can only intervene or quench free radicals.
Interestingly, curcuminoids besides being versatile anti-oxidants exert an anti-inflammatory mechanism which is more precise and safe than that of aspirin. For example, a recent study on curcuminoids done at the prestigious Sloan-Kettering Cancer Research Center in New York showed that the anti-inflammatory mechanism of curcuminoids operates by suppressing the enzyme cylooxygenase type 2 (Cox-2) which excessive activity is responsible for manufacturing the inflammatory compounds (eg. prostaglandin thromboxane) in the body (the daily recommended anti-oxidant dose of curcuminoids is 50-150 mg; the anti-inflammatory dose is 500 mg tid).
A particular group of anti-oxidant ingredients that should be mention are those which can play a preventive and positive nutritional role in a disease. Nowhere is the need for an appropriate anti-oxidant supplementation more obvious than in the devastating disease of diabetes. The course of diabetes, particularly the adult onset type (NIDDM or type II diabetes), if diagnosed in its early stages can be dramatically improved with life style and dietary modification, including the use of anti-oxidants. Oxidative stress is one of the major mechanisms in diabetics that leads to accelerated cataract formation and eye retina damage with resulting blindness, as well as nervous and cardiovascular system damage (accelerated atherosclerosis being a major cause of mortality among diabetics).
Some important anti-oxidants in managing diabetes include alpha lipoic acid (used successfully in Europe for several decades to alleviate diabetes caused neuropathy and retinopathy), standardized extract of Momordica charantia (fam. Cucurbitaceae), and Gymnema sylvestre (fam. Asclepiadecae), minerals like L(+)selenomethionine, zinc monomethionine, magnesium citrate, organic forms of vanadium, and a body-made anti-oxidant Coenzyme Q10. These nutrients, besides being anti-oxidants, can be considered useful in the nutritional support of diabetes.
Selenium, especially in organic form like selenomethionine, is one of the most versatile anti-oxidant minerals. Selenium is an essential trace element in nutrition for the prevention of disease in humans. Epidemiological studies indicate an association between low nutritional selenium status and increased risks of cardiomyopathy, cardiovascular disease and carcinogenesis in various sites of the body. The role of selenium supplementation in the prevention of a virus infection (eg prevention of HIV related pathology) has been considered.
Selenoproteins (proteins with selenium in their structure) discovered in mammalian cells may
account for the essentiality of selenium in the body antioxidant defense (selenium is indispensable in function of glutathione system), the thyroid hormone function, the immune system function, particularly the cellular immunity, formation of sperm and functioning of the prostate gland.
The nutritionally recommended dose of elemental selenium is estimated at 50 to 200 micrograms per day. Another less known and increasingly discussed anti-oxidant is Coenzyme Q10. The nutritional supplementation of coenzyme Q10, a ubiquitous body made molecule, is of clinical significance since its deficiency has been found in course of aging, physical exhaustion, in patients with diabetes, and with ischemic heart disease. Supplementation with coenzyme Q10 (daily recommended dose 50 to 120 mg) has been shown to be beneficial in nutritional support of congestive heart failure, dyslipidemia, complications of diabetes, Parkinson’s syndrome and as a potential therapy in some forms of male infertility.
Last but not least, the optimal nutritional support with anti-oxidants should take into consideration the bioavailability, and especially the gastrointestinal absorption, of a supplemented anti-oxidant. To paraphrase the old adage: you are what you eat as well as what you absorb. Bioperine is a patented natural product designed for enhancement of broad range of nutrient bioavailability.
Bioperine consists of 95 per cent pure natural alkaloid piperine, a pungent principle derived from fruits of black pepper. The increased nutrient absorption in the presence of Bioperine has been achieved with 5mg of the compound co-administered with the supplemented nutrient. Bioperine has been evaluated with fat soluble beta-carotene, water soluble vitamin B6, vitamin C, Coenzyme Q10 and mineral selenium in the form of L-selenomethionine in human volunteers.
The mechanism(s) by which piperine increases the absorption of diversified nutrients is likely a non-specific and operate directly in the gastrointestinal tract. These mechanisms may involve increased gastrointestinal blood supply, increased micelle formation, and epithelial cell wall modification due to the lipophilic nature of the compound. The most interesting mode of action of piperine may be due to its postulated thermogenic properties and the increase in bioenergetic processes (creating increased demand for the supplied nutrient) in the gastrointestinal epithelium described in literature as its thermonutrient activity.
In summary, the perspective of anti-oxidants and their nutritional use in medical practice should be considered in the context of how they can be used to balance the processes that lead to formation of free radicals – the oxidative processes. Only with this perspective can we make a wise choice helping our body, instead of adding a new health burden. The peer-review references in support of various statements in this article are available upon request.
The writers Dr Vladimir Badmaev is the vice-president, Scientific and Medical Affairs and Dr Muhammed Majeed is the managing director of Sami Labs Ltd, Bangalore