While astaxanthin is enjoying some much-deserved time in the spotlight for being recognized as the most powerful antioxidant available, there are five other antioxidants that work together in a unique relationship to support and strengthen the entire antioxidant system. These antioxidants, called network antioxidants, include lipoic acid, vitamins C and E, CoQ10 and, the mother of all antioxidants, glutathione.
Before going into more detail about each of these antioxidants, we first need to understand the role antioxidants play in keeping our bodies healthy.
Antioxidants are a group of compounds, including vitamins, minerals, and other phytonutrients, produced by the body or found naturally in foods. They protect our bodies from the damaging effect of free radicals. Free radicals are produced by the body as a by-product of normal energy production processes; they can also be produced by environmental substances, including chemicals, smoke, pollutants and solar radiation. Although free radicals play an important part in the healthy function of our bodies, they are also unstable molecules that can damage healthy cells and tissue. They play a major role in most diseases, including cancer and heart disease, not to mention the aging process itself. Antioxidants are important because they are able to neutralize free radicals, keeping them from causing further damage to the body.
So why are the network antioxidants so important? According to the book The Antioxidant Miracle, these five antioxidants have the ability to regenerate each other after they have neutralized a free radical, so that the antioxidant can continue to fight other free radicals. This helps the body to sustain the correct balance of antioxidants. Each of the five antioxidants plays a specific role within in the network:
1. Lipoic acid
Lipoic acid is considered the most powerful antioxidant out of the entire antioxidant network because it has the ability to regenerate all of the network antioxidants, including itself! For this reason, lipoic acid has been dubbed the ‘antioxidant generator.’ It has the ability to protect against stroke, heart disease, cataracts and liver diseases, as well as prevent aging of the brain and boost memory. It can be difficult to obtain adequate amounts of lipoic acid from food alone, so taking a supplement of the antioxidant can help make up for this shortfall.
2. Vitamin E
Considered the master antioxidant, vitamin E increases immune function and protects brain cells from aging. It helps reduce risk of stroke and heart attacks, including reoccurring heart attacks. A natural protector of the skin from UV radiation and ozone, vitamin E helps prevent wrinkles, age spots, and skin cancer. It has anti-inflammatory properties, a great relief for arthritis sufferers.
Vitamin C protects DNA and sperm from free radical damage. It strengthens the immune system, shortening the length and severity of colds and flus. Vitamin C helps to prevent cataracts, a common ailment of aging eyes; it also is involved in the production of collagen which increases elasticity and keeps skin looking young. Working with vitamin E, C helps protect lipoproteins from oxidation that can contribute to heart disease.
4. CoEnzyme Q10
Known as the antioxidant king of kings, CoQ10 plays a major role in protecting the heart and is commonly used in Japan to prevent and treat heart disease. Besides heart health, CoQ10 treats gum disease, and also helps restore brains cells, possibly preventing Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. CoQ10 is produced by the body, but production decreases with age. Small amounts can be obtained from oily fish and whole grains; however, supplementation can be useful.
The video below proides an excellent summation on why glutathione is considered ‘The Mother of all Antioxidants.’ Glutathione is important for immune and liver function. It plays a key role in the detoxification of drugs and pollutants, as well as the storage and transport of amino acids. Glutathione is produced by the body, but not easily absorbed from food or supplements. The best way to boost glutathione levels is to take lipoic acid, which recycles it.
To keep the antioxidant network fully effective, try incorporating more fresh whole fruits, vegetables, seeds, and nuts into your diet. Vitamin C is abundant in many fruits and vegetables; however, heat rapidly destroys the vitamin, so eating these foods raw is recommended. Vitamin E is abundant in “seed” foods, such as, nuts, seeds (and their oils), whole grains, peas and fava beans. Eating a colorful variety of whole, natural foods will keep your antioxidant network effective and increase your body’s antioxidant potential to fight free radicals and prevent disease.
Packer, L., & Colman, C. (1999). The Antioxidant Miracle: Put Lipoic Acid, Pycnogenol, and Vitamins E and C to work for You. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Holford, P. (2004). The New Optimum Nutrition Bible. London: The Crossing Press.
Rebecca Jennings is currently in her second year of studying Naturopathic Medicine. Previously, her passion for nutrition and natural health had led her to pursue a Master’s degree in Holistic Nutrition; however, after a year of study, a desire for a more comprehensive study of science and natural medicine led her to change course and begin studies in Naturopathic Medicine. Rebecca enjoys researching and staying on top of the latest news and trends in natural health and nutrition. She maintains an active lifestyle by practicing yoga, pilates, cycling, hiking and traveling.
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