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why we need anti-oxidants

Despite its status as a necessary life substance for all except a few special organisms, oxygen is a highly toxic mutagenic gas (FREE RADICALS IN BIOLOGY AND MEDICINE, B Halliwell and J MC Gutteridge, OUP, Oxford 1999, p. 1). We can only survive its presence in our atmosphere because we have important anti-oxidant mechanisms to protect us from its damage.

Initially the earth's atmosphere had less than 1% oxygen. But activity by blue-green algae species billions of years ago gradually increased these levels. For them it was just a waste product of a respiration process that relied on releasing hydrogen from water. By 1.3 billion years ago, levels had risen to 1%. Around 500 million years ago, oxygen levels had reached 10%. This was sufficient to switch on the all-important ozone layer, which protects the earth's surface from blazing destructive UV radiation.

From then on, other life forms could evolve.

Oxygen may have reached 35% in the late Carboniferous age, when life was mainly plant-based. The present level of 21% was settled around 5 million years ago. As a result, oxygen is the most prevalent element in the Earth's crust (53%); rock is basically silicon dioxide, with additions

DEFINITION: Oxidation has long been taken to mean the addition of an oxygen atom to an existing chemical structure. More latterly, scientists have also used this term for an exchange in which an electron is removed from a grouping. The opposite process, hydrogenation, is the addition of hydrogen; addition of an electron to a grouping is thus also hydrogenation.

About 85- 90% of oxygen taken up in advanced animal respiration is consumed by the mitochondria. The essence of metabolic energy production in the body is that food materials are oxidized, by having electrons stripped. This releases the energy to create molecules of ATP (adenosine triphosphate), which is the body's chief energy transport mechanism. The whole process is done in a gradual step-wise fashion, involving the creation of excited forms of iron, from ferrous to ferric-haem cytochrome.

This is a very important physiological detail. It makes iron is one of the most destructive oxidative stress elements in our tissues. The removal of excess "hot" iron may be one of the principal mechanisms by which chelation with EDTA reduces or even reverses oxidative age damage.

The whole process is done under the control of a complex enzyme system called the cytochrome oxidase pathway. Cytochrome oxidase in mammals is special in that it works efficiently when there is almost no oxygen present. But xenobiotics and pollution very quickly poison this system, and so render us liable to tissue damage by oxidation.


The term "free radicals" (hence free-radical damage) was soon introduced into this debate. But strictly a free radical is simply one capable of existing independently (hence the term "free"); they don't necessarily bite! A better term is reactive oxygen species (ROS). The chief reactive oxydation ions are O2 and OH (hydroxyl ion). The so-called superoxide radical is not, in truth, as active or damaging as the basic oxygen radical, despite its name! The quartet is made up with the peroxide ion. This is also a killer ion and is generated briefly by certain white cells, to damage microbes before ingesting them. Out of place it is potentially harmful to us.

Finally, ozone is another reactive oxygen species which is highly destructive to living cells. However it is little found at sea level, remaining largely in the upper atmosphere, where it shields us from harmful UV radiation. Unfortunately, urban pollution, notably with traffic emissions, in the presence of sunlight, creates dangerous levels of ozone which we may breathe. It causes lung damage.


Oxidation stress, leading to tissue damage, has now been implicated in a wide variety of disease complaints, including arthritis, heart disease, cancer, dementias and other degenerative illnesses. Environmental pollution and overburdened lifestyles unquestionably potentiate this ageing process. Smoking and excess alcohol increase oxidative damage also. The most sensitive organ to oxidative damage is the brain. Hardly surprising, since around 25% of the body's metabolic activity occurs in this one organ. This means real changes and loss of cognitive function - "feeling old", lethargy, confusion and forgetfulness. There are many subtle layers and degrees of this unfortunate process which we recognize as a loss of zest for life and a failure to think as sharply as we once did.

As we have come to understand the power and significance of oxidative tissue damage, a key process in ageing, then substances which protect us from this occurrence have assumed steadily greater significance. We call these, not unnaturally, anti-oxidants. They can be listed as follows:

  • AMINO ACIDS - cysteine, glutathione, methionine, taurine.
  • BIOFLAVINOIDS - anthocyanins (blue-black fruits), citrus bioflavinoids (lemon, orange, grapefruit etc), oligometric proanthocyanidins (OPC) in pycnogenol.
  • CAROTENOIDS - alpha and beta carotene (red, yellow and orange fruits and vegetables), lycopene (red fruits and vegetables).
  • HERBS - Gingko, green tea, milk thistle, sage
  • MINERALS - Copper, zinc, manganese, selenium
  • VITAMINS AND CO-FACTORS - A, B2, C, E and coenzyme Q10, NADH (nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide).
  • ENZYMES - catalase, glutathione peroxidase, superoxide dismutase

A number of proprietary "anti-oxidant" formulas are on sale. Typically, these include mixtures of vitamin A, beta carotone, C, E, selenium and zinc. It is advisable to eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, which all contain types of anti-oxidants, as you see from the list above.

Chelation therapy is now known to act primarily as an anti-oxidant process. Elmer Cranton MD, one of the doyen figures of chelation therapy and author of several definitive books, thinks this is mainly by removing "pro-oxidant" ions, such as iron. It may not be all that simple. But the benefits are quite clear. I have now taken to giving glutathione IV, along with EDTA, and found startling extra benefits against ageing.


In February 2007 a shocking attack on antioxidants was launched in an article published by the Journal of the American Medical Association [Mortality in Randomized Trials of Antioxidant Supplements for Primary and Secondary Prevention, JAMA. 2007;297:842-857].

The "study" claimed beta carotene, vitamin A, and vitamin E given singly or combined with other antioxidant supplements "significantly increase mortality". In fact it showed no such thing and is typical of the way in which appaling perverted science is published without question by mainstream journals, if it in any way undermines natural health and living.

Even if taking these anti-oxidants really was associated with a higher death rate, the "researchers' completely failed to assess or deal with the possibility that sicker people may be more desperate and more likely to try vitamins and minerals - but are also more likley to die. This would cause a bias showing anti-oxidant takers died quicker. But that's a million miles from saying that anti-oxidants caused it!!

These hatchet jobs are often done by a "tool" called meta-analysis. That means you pool all the bad studies with those showing good outcomes, mix everything up, fudge all the figures and - hey presto - you cancel out all the good outcomes. This review of 68 studies covered nearly a quarter of a million people and might sound impressive - if you don't know how these stories are faked.

The whole sham study tried to imply that patients were dying of vitamins supplements, when of course they were dying of heart disease, cancer, kidney failure and so on.

Take all the anti-oxidants you can swallow. There are 100,000s of studies showing the benfits. Natural foods are best, coloured foods and... chocolate! A BMJ study (December 19, 1998) showed that the more chocolate you ate, the longer you lived. Chocolate is very rich in anti-oxidants: natural unprocessed variety only, I'm afraid!

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