Antioxidants are chemical substances that donate an electron to the free radical and convert it to a harmless molecule. In this way, antioxidants intercept free radicals and protect cells from the oxidative damage that leads to aging and disease. Antioxidants prevent injury to blood vessel membranes, helping to optimize blood flow to the heart and brain, defend against cancer causing DNA damage and help lower the risk of tinnitus, cardiovascular disease, and dementia.
Antioxidants come in many forms and are produced in the body or supplied from food or supplements. It is much more effective to supply a broad spectrum of antioxidants than taking mega doses of individual ones. Antioxidants work synergistically to reinforce and regenerate each other.
The body produces antioxidants in the form of enzymes, co-enzymes such as co-enzyme Q10 (C0Q10), and sulfur containing compounds such as glutathione. Antioxidants supplied by food or supplements are categorized as vitamins, minerals and flavonoids and carotenoids.
The primary vitamin antioxidants are Vitamins C and E. Vitamin C is the best known and most mainstream antioxidant. It is found in abundance in fruits and vegetables and prevents oxidation of water-based molecules. It is water soluble and active in liquid areas of the body, such as blood plasma and eye fluids. It is responsible for preventing oxidative damage to DNA and blocks the production of cancer causing nitrosamines in the stomach.
Vitamin E is the best known fat soluble antioxidant and works in fat cell membranes and in circulating cholesterol. The richest source of Vitamin E is found in oils, nuts and grain. Vitamin E protects against heart disease. Oxidation of Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL), the “bad” cholesterol, causes it to stick more easily to blood vessel walls, leading to the formation of plaques in arteries, causing atherosclerosis. If plaques detach as clots, they travel in the circulatory system until they eventually cause heart attacks or strokes. Numerous studies have shown Vitamin E to protect against this particular oxidation. It is also associated with low risk of lung, colon, stomach, breast and cervical cancer.
The vitamin-like antioxidant coenzyme Q10 is found in high quantities in the heart and is also protective of cardiovascular disease. CoQ10 also protects against neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. CoQ10 works closely with alpha lipoic acid in reducing brain cell damage. Alpha lipoic acid has the ability to regenerate the antioxidant properties of vitamins C and E. It is both water and fat soluble and can eliminate free radicals in any area of the body.
The minerals selenium and zinc serve as components of antioxidants made by the body. Selenium is a critical component of the antioxidant glutathione while zinc is necessary to maintain vitamin E levels. Zinc is very helpful for tinnitus precisely because of it’s antioxidant properties within the inner ear. The largest concentration of zinc in the body is found in the inner ear. Zinc deficiencies have long been associated with tinnitus and zinc supplementation is a very effective way to manage it. A clinical study showing the effectiveness of zinc supplementation for tinnitus can be found at www.tinnitusformula.com/info/articles/stud/zincstudy.asp.
Flavonoids and Carotenoids
Flavonoids are water soluble compounds that give plants their color. The catechins found in black and green tea are powerful antioxidants. They help explain why Japanese men, who smoke more than their American counterparts, have lower lung cancer rates. They also suppress the growth of many types of cancers produced by chemicals and radiation.
Ginkgo biloba contains ginkgo flavonoids that protect against oxidative damage. Ginkgo is very helpful for tinnitus as shown by the clinical study we recently published. This study can be seen here. Recent studies have shown that ginkgo may also help restore some cognitive function in people with dementia.
Grape seed extracts are twice as powerful as vitamin E and four times stronger than vitamin C. This helps explain the so-called “French Paradox.” While the French diet, high in dietary fats, they experience a lower rate of cardiovascular disease due to the effects of the red wine consumption. The tannins in red wine are known antioxidants. However, more than one or two glasses of red wine per day is considered too much of a “good thing.”
Carotenoids are fat soluble compounds. Perhaps the best known is beta carotene, found in carrots, which converts to vitamin A, an antioxidant. A more powerful carotenoid is lycopene, found in tomatoes. Lycopene protects against prostate cancer and cardiovascular disease.
Antioxidants, Health and Tinnitus, by Barry Keate on TinnitusFormula: http://www.tinnitusformula.com/infocenter/articles/treatments/antiox.aspx
Antioxidants - Good for Your Health, Good for Your Hearing, by Richard D. Kopke, MD and Richard W. Danielson, PhD, in CAOHC's newsletter, Winter/Spring 2003· Volume 15, Issue 1: http://www.caohc.org/updatearticles/spring03.pdf