Raise Your Antioxidant Shield
Raise Your Antioxidant Shield - Part I - August 1998
WILL: How would you measure, or how would you determine whether there were adequate amounts of the end products of this, i.e., NADH? You said that you haven't seen any evidence showing that, provided the raw materials were adequate, that there are shortages with regard to NADH; and I presume that means what NADH does in the body.
DURK: Yes, that's for normal healthy animals. If you have an animal or person who has some sort of genetic defect in their ability to make NADH, that's a different matter entirely.
WILL: Please tell us more about the role of the B2 (riboflavin).
DURK: Riboflavin is necessary for the function of the endogenous (produced in the body) enzyme, glutathione reductase, that's involved in reducing the ascorbate radicals and reducing and recycling oxidized glutathione back to the antioxidant reduced glutathione.
Our multivitamin, multimineral, antioxidant booster formulation is intended
to be used by someone who takes one of our other multivitamin, multimineral, antioxidant formulations.
Our booster formulation is designed as a booster for both of our main multivitamin, multimineral, antioxidant formulations. Some people may want to take the additional vitamin E. They get it along with a reasonable amount of vitamins C, B2, B3, taurine, hesperidin, quercetin and ascorbyl palmitate when they take our multivitamin, multimineral, antioxidant booster formulation. It is interesting to note that the antioxidant taurine is concentrated in the heart, brain, and retina. The best food source of taurine is red meat but many people are eating less red meat nowadays, and therefore get less taurine.
WILL: In your book, Life Extension: A Practical Scientific Approach, you wrote that you were taking 2000 IU of vitamin E. I notice the studies have gone up year after year from 200 to 400 to 800 to 1200 to 1600. I think that's the highest I generally see out there right now. Is there a case for taking more?
DURK: First off, this is going to vary from individual to individual. Different people have different biochemistries, different weak points and their genetics in terms of protecting themselves from oxidative damage. It's really something where you don't have one size that fits all. I would like to point out that a person can probably, at least in part, make a judgement as to what the reasonable amount to take is, if they are sensitive to the way that they feel. Now this may seem a rather radical statement. But an experiment that was conducted several years ago using mice may help to explain it. There is a type of mouse that has an autoimmune disease and dies early from it. The mice do not live to a normal mouse age. This autoimmune disease can be suppressed with cyclophosphamide, which is a very powerful immune suppressant that's also used in cancer therapy. It is very nasty, toxic stuff.
If you give the mice just the right amount of cyclophosphamide, they'll live a normal life span; they won't develop the autoimmune disease, and they won't be killed by the cyclophosphamide toxicity either. However, it can damage a lot of different systems in a body. What was particularly interesting is an experiment in which mice were given access to plain water and water containing cyclophosphamide. They could drink either liquid; as much or as little or none at all of the cyclophosphamide water. Most of the mice, almost all of them, were able to suppress the autoimmune disease and live normal lifespans without having any cyclophosphamide toxicity. We're not talking about rocket scientists here; we're talking about some pretty dumb mice. Mice who self-regulate their dose of a toxin based on how they feel.
SANDY: So obviously, they were able to go on the basis of how they felt. The physiology of their body was communicating to them signals so that they did not drink too much or too litle of the cyclophosphamide water.
There's very good epidemiological data
showing that diets higher in vitamins C and E
along with hesperiden and quercetin result
in a lower incidence of cancer
and possibly cardiovascular disease.
DURK: This doesn't mean that how you feel when eating or drinking something is always the best guide, especially in the short run. You have to be cautious when you're dealing with psychoactive substances. Alcohol does make the alcoholic feel better, but that doesn't mean it's a good idea for them to drink a whole lot of alcohol. But it is different with things that are not, per se, psychoactive and don't interact with things like the dopamine reward system. I think that a person who is sensitive to the way they feel can tell something that is valid about what is going on inside of them just by monitoring themselves and seeing how they feel about things.
SANDY: It's an awfully important signal, and it's something that's not discussed very often, because in science what you want to look at are things that can be measured, objective things that are not dependent on somebody's particular point of view or whether they got up on the right side of the bed that morning. How you feel about something - and, of course, animals can't tell you very much about that anyway - may be very important to help adjust your behavior in response to physiological changes. Feelings should not be dismissed; they can be very helpful when added to the whole picture.
WILL: You've suggested that the polyphenols in your phenylalanine formulation may result in a generally happier disposition because of the fact that it reduces free radical damage in the brain.
DURK: Yes. The polyphenols - green tea polyphenols - do get into the brain. The brain is the fattiest tissue in the body; it has by far the highest concentrations of polyunsaturated fat, yet it also has the smallest capability of repairing damage. The brain also has a very high metabolic rate. And you put all that together and you end up with a lot of free radical damage. I suspect that one of the reasons green tea polyphenols makes a person feel good, whether in the form of a classical green tea or in the form of our phenylalanine formulation, is that it takes a free radical load off your brain which makes you feel better.
WILL: Do you suspect, that this would be the case with other items as well?
DURK: I do. Let's face it; when an animal is running out in the jungle - out in the mountains or the prairies or whatever - it's eating different things. And the instinct this animal has to go on - as to whether it's eating the right thing or not - is the way it feels afterwards. Even the nutrient supplies to amoebas and protozoans and other single cell organisms operate this way. It's something that goes back over a billion years. You eat something and you see how you feel and it is usually wise to adjust your eating habits based on those feelings.
Taking one antioxidant alone is often not
really that good an idea for a very
SANDY: We have a rapid uptake system in the mucous membranes of our mouth. So if you're eating something new, very small amounts of it will very quickly get to the brain. Often, you'll be able to detect an unpleasant effect before you've eaten enough of the material to actually poison you.
WILL: Then we really discern positive feelings with a product such as your multivitamin, multimineral, antioxidant booster formulation. Also, is it possible to detect oxidative damage via taste?
DURK: Probably not by taste per se; but by the way the person feels afterward. For example, something that's going to increase the amount of oxidative damage in a person's body may cause an increase in arthritic pain or make you tired or apathetic. Of course the aroma of rancidity - volatile ketone and aldehyde breakdown products of free radical oxidized fats - is a natural turnoff.
WILL: We all have negative experiences with food, whether it's feeling heavy and lethargic, or crummy, often after eating junk food. When you add glycine to your drink mix, doesn't it suppress the taste that's associated with some degree of oxidation?
DURK: It tends to suppress bitter tastes. And in fact, it is protective against aldehydes, which frequently have a burning bitter taste. Just looking at what a person describes as a taste is not all there is to what happens after an animal - or for that matter an amoeba - eats some food.
WILL: How would you sum up?
The nutrients in our booster formulation help get
that high energy unpaired electron down
to lower and lower energy states where
you have more and more time to match it
up to another unpaired electron to get
rid of it before it does some damage.
DURK: Taking one antioxidant alone is often not really that good an idea for a very fundamental reason. A free radical is something with an unpaired electron. Electrons like to go around in pairs because of the way symmetry works in space and time and because of the equations of quantum mechanics. You can add an even number to an odd number all day long - you can add all the even numbers you want - and you still have an odd number. Most chemical reactions take place swapping pairs of electrons. The problem with free radical reactions is that they're promiscuous. You may have 40,000 compounds in a typical living cell. Each compound is typically supposed to react in most cases with only one or two or maybe three different things; but typically one or two. When you have a single free radical, that unpaired electron doesn't like to be alone, so it either grabs another electron from somewhere else or transfers its unpaired electron to something else, doing damage in the process. Free radical reactions tend to be promiscuous. When that unpaired electron of a free radical joins with another electron, it stops being a free radical, thus creating a free radical of its victim molecule. The free radical is neutralized by grabbing an electron from somewhere else which then makes the donor a free radical, although often a less damaging one.
SANDY: So what can happen if you have a large excess of an antioxidant - vitamin C, for instance - you can end up with an excess of that antioxidant in its free radical form. Under the proper conditions - with other antioxidants - it would be able to hand off that extra electron to another antioxidant, and the extra odd unpaired electron would end up going down a sort of bucket brigade of antioxidants until the amount of the extra free radical energy for causing damage was dissipated. Free radicals are finally destroyed by stabilizing them long enough to be paired up with each other. This is a major role of your antioxidant cascade.
But when you just have the one antioxidant, you don't have that ability to quench the newly created free radical to a less energetic state. So you can end up with a lot of free radicals around, even though it may be part of an antioxidant chain, it's only part of the chain and it's not really protecting you against free radicals.
WILL: So your multivitamin, multimineral, antioxidant booster formulation, in a way, is not additive but subtractive, subtracting destructive energy.
DURK: (Laughs) Yes, that's exactly right. The nutrients help get that high energy unpaired electron down to lower and lower energy states where you have more and more time to match it up to another unpaired electron to get rid of it before it does some damage.
WILL: Many people think of energy, per se, as positive or creative, but the energy of free radicals is often negative or destructive.
Vitamin C is extremely important. It's
generally the first antioxidant that's used up
in natural physiological systems,
such as oxidation of lipids.
SANDY: Yes, so it's important to get free radicals down to low enough energy levels that they are very unlikely to be able to cause damage to important molecules.
DURK: For example, a hydroxyl radical can attack anything in your body. If it attacks DNA and it hits part of the DNA that, say, controls cell suicide ( which is a good thing under conditions of unrepairable genetic damage), that cell may just continue dividing, instead of committing cell suicide, and become a cancer cell.
SANDY: One of the problems with the available scientific studies is that you cannot tell what kinds of effects various combinations of antioxidants are having on free radicals. Generally, most studies do not use collections of antioxidants that work together; except in the case of whole foods. So you are getting information; but it's not giving you information about what the effect of that antioxidant would be if it were in a chain of antioxidants that it's supposed to be working with.
DURK: In fact, we've really been quite surprised at how many papers have shown that large doses of vitamin E given in isolation, without other antioxidants, have beneficial effects. So many of them show beneficial effects; and there's such an absence of adverse effects that it really is quite amazing. When a tocopherol (vitamin E) molecule bumps into a hydroxyl radical you end up with a tocopherol radical, which is still nasty but nowhere near as dangerously reactive as the hydroxyl radical. Now you've got to get rid of the tocopherol radical. The tocopherol radical is frequently reduced by ascorbate, which then recycles the tocopherol radical back into tocopherol, meaning vitamin E in its antioxidant form; and now you have an ascorbyl radical, which is pretty nasty but not as nasty as you had before. The ascorbyl radical, again, has to be reduced. Several of the compounds that can reduce the ascorbyl radical and turn it back into vitamin C again are the polyphenols such as green tea polyphenols, quercetin and hesperidin. As part of getting rid of the free radicals, you also require vitamin B2 and vitamin B3 in this redox chain.
SANDY: Vitamin C is extremely important. It's generally the first antioxidant that's used up in natural physiological systems, such as oxidation of lipids. Vitamin C acts as the first antioxidant and is able to prevent the oxidation of lipids; but then when the vitamin C is used up, other antioxidants start to be used. At that point, you can get a large and rapid increase in the amount of oxidized lipids. Vitamin C is actually the most important in many of these systems; which is one reason why you need a lot more vitamin C than you need of many of these other antioxidants.
WILL: In a way, your multivitamin, multimineral, antioxidant booster formulation is like a whole-food system. It really is a designer food in a sense, by the well thought out way it was formulated.
DURK: Yes, it can be looked at that way. Of course, it's much less sophisticated than any plant you'll find growing out there. But the thing to keep in mind is that most plants don't live 100 years, which is what we, as humans, are shooting for. And even for those plants that do live on, there's a whole lot of differences. For example, a redwood tree may live 2000 years. But take a look at the amount of polyunsaturated fat it has in it. It's not very comparable in terms of fat content, either saturated or polyunsaturated, to an animal. So just because you have a particular system in a redwood doesn't mean you it works that well in an animal. Our multivitamin, multimineral, antioxidant booster formulation, on the other hand is formulated for humans, not plants, and it takes the differences into consideration.