Sources of Antioxidants
If you leave your bicycle out in the rain, it will rust. This is oxidation and it is a process that just doesn't effect your trusty bicycle but it is also something that takes place in the human body.
There are literally billions of cells in the human body which are made up of molecules which are made up of atoms and the atoms themselves are made up of sub atomic particles known as protons, neutrons and electrons. The basic makeup of an atom is a nucleus which includes the protons and neutrons in the centre. On the outside of the 'shell' there a number of electrons which normally have to be equal in amount to the amount of protons inside the nucleus.
Exposure to radiation, certain types of foods especially greasy foods, stress, alcohol, tobacco and lack of sleep or exercise can create oxidation in the human body. the damage cause by this oxidative stress or damage is known as free radical damage. Free radicals are themselves either single molecules or groups of molecules that are unstable. They are unstable because they have an odd or unpaired number of electrons. These unstable molecules enter the body and steal an electron from another molecule. Because the now newly damaged molecule no longer has the same amount of protons and electrons it will seek to steal an electron from a nearby atom. This creates a cascade of free radical damage that is believed to cause damage to the cells including proteins, DNA as well as the cell membranes leading to a wealth of diseases including cancer and heart disease.
However, all hope is not lost. There are a number of behaviours such as getting enough sleep and exercise as well as not smoking and drinking alcohol to excess that can reduce the amount of free radical damage. There is also good news in the form of antioxidants which are chemicals that enter the body and donate electrons thus stabilising atoms and the resultant cells. The beauty of antioxidants is that when they donate electrons, they don't become unstable themselves.
There are many fruit and vegetables that are high in antioxidants and they can be measured using an Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity test which is known as ORAC for short. An ORAC test measures the Total Antioxidant Capacity or TAT. Foods such as tomatoes have a typical ORAC score of 60, Cherries score 100 and broccoli scores around 130. One of the superstars of antioxidants is the acai berry which is scored at 102,700. Turmeric scores higher with 159,277 and 100g of the Curcumin supplement BCM-95® high absorption curcumin was found to have an ORAC value of over 1,500,000. That is one hundred and two thousand, seven hundred for the superstar berry and over 1 and half million for the Curcumin.
A study entitled 'Anti-oxidative effects of Curcumin on immobilization-induced oxidative stress in rat brain, liver and kidney' published in 'Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy' investigated the effect of 'Restraint Stress' with rats. Restraint stress in this study was induced by immobilising rats for one hour per day using restrainers. This use of restraint was used for twenty one consecutive days. Restraint stress causes oxidative stress in both humans and animals and in this study the researchers were investigating malondialdehyde (MDA), reduced glutathione (GSH) and also levels of antioxidants which included superoxide dismutase (SOD) glutathione peroxidase (GPx), glutathione reductase (GR) and catalase (CAT). After the restraint stress finished the researchers were able to measure the levels in the brains, kidneys and livers of the rats.
What was particularly interesting about the study was that the rats were injected with Curcumin every day during the twenty one day trial and at the end of the study, the researchers concluded that Curcumin helps prevent oxidative stress caused by restrain stress in animals compared to rats who didn't receive Curcumin.
Further studies on the use of Curcumin against oxidative stress include a study called 'Turmeric extract and its active compound, curcumin, protect against chronic CCl4-induced liver damage by enhancing antioxidation'.
Previous research has indicated that Curcumin helps with liver damage and in the study 'Turmeric extract and its active compound, curcumin, protect against chronic CCl4-induced liver damage by enhancing antioxidation', scientists attempted to investigate the mechanism or mechanisms implicated in the use of Turmeric and Curcumin in the alleviation of liver problems. The investigation involved the use of rats in which hepatic stress was induced and the rats were also given Curcumin every day for a month.
The results from the study showed that Turmeric and its extract Curcumin helped protect the rats against the test induced liver injury by suppressing oxidative stress. The scientists also concluded that Curcumin inhibited lipid peroxidation whereby the free radicals steal electrons from the lipids, which include not only fats but waxes, sterols, fat-soluble vitamins and many others, from inside the cell membranes. Curcumin was also found to increase glutathione peroxidase activation, which is a powerful antioxidant enzyme (GPX1 gene chromosome three).
Yet another study entitled 'Pre-administration of turmeric prevents methotrexate-induced liver toxicity and oxidative stress' looked at oxidative stress involving the liver and the possible hepatic protection provided by Curcumin. The study used six rat control groups, the first of which was fed only salt water. The other five groups were administered varying amounts of Curcumin as well as a drug called Methotrexate which is often used in the treatment of cancer and autoimmune diseases but its use is limited because it quickly becomes toxic.
As expected the results from the study showed that the administration of the drug Methotrexate induced liver toxicity but the administration of Curcumin helped ameliorate its effects.
There have been many studies showing the antioxidant benefits of Curcumin involving numerous disease processes in the human body including obesity, obesity-related metabolic disorders, cancer, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer's disease, macular degeneration and many more. There is also much anecdotal and historical evidence regarding its ability as an antioxidant which means that there will be many more studies in the pipeline investigating its powerful properties.