It's All About Dietary Antioxidants:
Did you know the free-radical theory of aging really lends itself to intervention. Compounds that prevent free-radical damage are known as antioxidants or "free-radical scavengers."
The body has several enzymes that prevent the damage induced by specific types of free radicals. For example, superoxide dismutase (SOD) prevents the damage caused by the toxic oxygen molecule know as superoxide. Catalase and glutathione peroxidase are two other antioxidant enzymes found in the human body. The level of antioxidant enzymes, as well as the level of dietary antioxidants such as beta-carotene, determines the life span of mammals. Human beings live longer than chimpanzees, cats, dogs, and many other mammals because we have a greater quantity of antioxidants within our cells. Some strains of mice live longer than other strains because they have higher levels of antioxidant enzymes. Presumably, the reason why some people outlive others is that they have higer levels of antioxidants in their cells.
This line of thinking is largely the reason many progressive-minded physicians recommend increasing the level of antioxidant mechanisms within cells.
It is unlikely that antioxidant enzyme levels within cells can be increased by taking antioxidant enzymes such as SOD and glutathione peroxidase orally. Human subjects who take a tablet containing SOD do not appear to increase the level of SOD in their blood or tissues. Enzyme levels may be increased, however, by taking other dietary antioxidants. Several studies in animals have demonstrated that dietary antioxidants can definately increase life expectancy. We are just beginning to see human evidence. What we do know now is that antioxidant nutrients reduce the risk of getting cancer, heart disease, and many diseases linked to aging, including cataracts, macular degeneration, and arthritis. Dietary antioxidants of extreme significance in life-extension include vitam C and E, selenium, beta-carotene, flavonoids, sulfur-containing amino acids, and coenzyme Q10. Not surprisingly, these same nutrients are also of extreme significance in cancer prevention, as aging and cancer share many common mechanisms. Perhaps the most important dietary antioxidants for longevity are carotene molecules. Carotene represent the most widespread group of naturally occurring pigments in plant life. For many people (physicians included), the term "carotene" is synonymous with "provitamin A," but only thirty to fifty of the more than four hundred carotenoids that have been characterized are believed to have vitamin A activity.
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