Are your Antioxidants working? How do you know?
Most Antioxidant Supplements Fail to Deliver Results
Many people these days are aware of the term “antioxidants”. It has become a buzz word in marketing to promote an array of supplements and foods. Many healthcare practitioners will prescribe antioxidant products to their patients as part of their treatment protocols, nutritional GP’s are recommending intravenous Vitamin C, and many people are buying antioxidant products on their own volition at health food stores or through multi-level marketing companies, all in the belief that these products are exerting a powerful and very important antioxidant effect in the body.
As a practitioner I believe it is critical to focus on decreasing oxidative stress as it is a driver of disease, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, ageing, arthritis, Alzheimer’s, autoimmune diseases, obesity, and the list just goes on and on. What we have to ensure, is that we employ interventions that are effective.
Overall, there is considerable misunderstanding, misinformation and at times outright deception in the use of and marketing of antioxidant products and interventions.
Time to Change our Focus
What is clear is that most of the current and traditional approaches focus on the supposedly antioxidant effect from the supplement or intervention. What has been completely overlooked is that our bodies produce their own antioxidant enzymes, which are far more effective at dealing with oxidative stress and offer more protection than any supplement. Our own enzymes are termed “Primary Antioxidants”, whereas supplements and food are “Secondary Antioxidants”. Our own primary antioxidant enzymes have major advantages over secondary antioxidants consumed from supplements or the diet. They are biological catalysts, rapidly and repeatedly acting at the source of where the free radicals are created, without becoming consumed during the process.
Primary Antioxidant Enzymes
Our primary antioxidant enzymes are MnSOD (Manganese Superoxide Dismutase), Catalase (CAT) and GPx1 (Glutathione Peroxidase). Most of the antioxidant supplements that are being bought and recommended, including glutathione, CoQ10, Vit E, Vit A, Vit C and our foods, are secondary antioxidants. If you want to effectively deal with oxidative stress, it are the primary antioxidant enzymes that should be supported.
Genetics Influence Effectiveness of your Primary Antioxidant Enzymes
What we know now from genetic profiling, is that the effectiveness of these primary antioxidant enzymes varies from person to person. Some people have mutations in the genes that produce these antioxidant enzymes which impairs their effectiveness. A genetic profile will show you mutations in these genes. If you have these mutations you are at an increased risk of being under high oxidative stress and will want to actively support this system and manage and reduce your risk. Once you have had a genetic test, it is important that your interventions focus on altering gene expression with the use of nutrigenomic supplements.
If you have mutations in your antioxidant genes, the solution is to use nutrigenomic supplements that up-regulate gene expression, leading to increased production and/or activity of your antioxidant enzymes. These nutrigenomic products are now available. But caution is advised when purchasing. There are some very good quality and highly effective nutrigenomic products available, but there are many that do not deliver the results they promise.
Assessing your Level of Oxidative Stress
Oxidative stress does not need to be an abstract term. There is advanced pathology testing that will enable you to assess how much oxidative damage has been done to various tissues in the body. In clinic I regularly use the 8OHdG test to assess oxidative damage done to the DNA. This test will show you if the interventions you are using to deal with oxidative stress are working.
I distinctly remember one patient I did this test for. At her initial consult she disclosed she was taking at least 20 different supplements per day , five of which were specific antioxidant supplements. Her 8OHdG result was one of the highest I have ever seen. It was 2.6 when the upper limit is 1.5. Obviously her antioxidant supplements, all five of them, were not working. When we did this patient’s genetic profile it showed she had mutations in all of the genes producing her primary antioxidant enzymes. I put her on quality nutrigenomic products to up-regulate gene expression. At re-testing her level had dropped considerably to 1.7, but still slightly high. She continued on her nutrigenomic protocol and when we re-tested a third time her level was now normal at 1.5.
My Recommendations for Managing Oxidative Stress
1. No matter what disease or health concern you have, ensure that your protocol effectively deals with the process of oxidative stress.
2. Order your genetic profile to check for mutations in your Primary Antioxidant Enzyme genes.
3. Use advanced pathology to assess your level of damage from oxidative stress. Baseline testing will enable you to assess the efficacy of your interventions.
4. Ensure you use nutrigenomic supplements that operate at the level of gene expression, and will effectively decrease oxidative stress.