ANTIOXIDANTS - WHY ARE THEY IMPORTANT?

Written by: Brittani Kolasinski (BHSc – Nutrition, Adv.Dip Nut Med)

We always hear about antioxidants, we know they are good, but you might wonder why? What is their purpose, what’s the point?

Well, let me explain…

Within the body, through normal metabolic reactions that occur like digestion, detoxification respiration, movement and so on, oxidation occurs through a process known as oxidative phosphorylation, and reactive oxygen species are produced.

The activation of the immune system and production of immune cells like macrophages, will also create oxidative species known as reactive nitrogen species.

The production of these reactive species can cause cellular damage. The action of antioxidants, can protect the cells from this damage – this means that they prevent damage to not only the cell structure, but the DNA within the cell, the proteins within the cell and the cell membrane.

DNA damage by reactive oxygen and reactive nitrogen species can lead to chromosome damage and mutations resulting in abnormal cells. This has been linked to the development of malignant cells and progression of cancer. There is a process that occurs within the body by the action of tumour suppressor genes which do just that – supress the formation of tumours in the body, however with a constant onslaught day after day of oxidative DNA damage, without adequate dietary antioxidants, it can lead to the inactivation of the tumour suppressor gene – this has in fact been seen in over 50% of adult carcinomas!

Smoking leads to cancer in a way that it triggers massive DNA damage throughout the body and depletes the body of antioxidant nutrients such as vitamin C.

A good way to prevent DNA damage and cancer growth is to ensure you’re getting more than enough dietary antioxidants day to day. Certain vitamins and minerals provide antioxidant action, these include Vitamin A, E, C, D and minerals zinc, magnesium and selenium.

However, it is important to note that getting your antioxidants should primarily come from wholefood sources, rather than supplementation. Especially if you already have cancer.

For example, supplemental vitamin E prevents DNA damage and oxidation, and promotes cellular repair, which is normally a good thing – BUT, if you have cancer cells present, this means that they too will repair and continue to grow, being detrimental to your health.

Which is why huge generalisations cannot be made when it comes to human health and nutrition and that nutrition and supplementation should always be person-specific. This is where seeing a health practitioner can benefit you greatly to know that you are getting the right nutrients to support you.

Our DNA is the blueprint, which is then translated into RNA which then creates the proteins needed for the functions within the body. The structure of the protein is important – when compromised or damaged by reactive oxygen species it can affect the function of the protein and inactive it.

Oxidative damage also inhibits the body’s ability to remove the damaged proteins, leading to a build-up of damaged protein structures lingering around the body and can form protein aggregates. Protein aggregates have been linked to the development of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.  

Lastly, reactive oxygen species can also damage the cell membranes. All of our cells contain a cell membrane, these membranes must maintain their fluidity – these reactive species can damage fluidity making them more rigid. There are certain transporters, proteins and receptors embedded within the membrane, making the fluid nature of the membrane important for them to continue to function. With a rigid membrane there are diminished functions of the receptors – which can effect neurotransmitters function and impair cognitive functioning.

Reactive oxygen and reactive nitrogen species are being produced within the body every day as by-products of NORMAL metabolic and immune functions. This means that eating a diet rich in varied antioxidant nutrients is essential. How can we do this? Eat a variety of coloured vegetables, fill your plate with them! Eat seasonally all year round, use different culinary herbs in your cooking or in salads, snack on some fruit, or raw cacao, even squeeze fresh lemon in your water – some simple ways you can massively benefit your health and prevent cancer development, toxin build-up, enhance cognitive function and contribute to healthy aging and longevity!

Yours in health,

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WHAT DOES CHOCOLATE & BLUE-GREEN ALGAE HAVE IN COMMON? …

Written By: Brittani Kolasinski (BHSc Nut, Adv Dip Nut Med)

Ahh that feeling you get when you let that sweet chocolatey goodness just melt in your mouth, feelings of euphoria, the endorphins released and the happiness in your heart (and in your belly) – you could also say these are somewhat like the contentment you feel when captivated by a good book, focused on a project or the ‘runners high’ when you get back from a challenging workout, but to associate these all with the blue green vegetables of the sea? .. that’s probably not such a common feat.

The most well-known member of this blue-green algae family would be spirulina, and thankfully its becoming more popular as time goes on (with good reason!). It contains all our essential amino acids, making this guy a complete source of protein for vegans and vegetarians, has a wide range of B vitamins, contains vitamin E, and the essential minerals potassium, calcium, chromium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, selenium, sodium, & zinc.

The deep blue-green pigments of spirulina are all thanks to the phytonutrients within; chlorophyll, phycocyanin, zeaxanthin, beta-carotene, lutein & many more. These guys are responsible for the potent antioxidant levels, fighting free radical damage on a cellular level within the body. Spirulina also contains different enzymes & trace elements.

Spirulina has shown benefit for strengthening the immune system, displaying anti-cancer properties and its use for conditions such as diabetes mellitus type 2 through its blood-lipid lowering and anti-inflammatory potential.

So how do you associate the algae’s with the chocolates of the world? It all comes down to a little substance known as ‘PEA’ (phenylethylamine). A chemical that can be made within the body by the brain or adrenals from two of our amino acids – tyrosine and phenylalanine. The action of PEA increases neurotransmitters in the brain that help us focus or pay attention – those times that you’re just so engaged that you lose all track of time – that’s attributed to PEA. Studies have shown that high levels of PEA are found in happy people’s brains, due to PEA’s action of preventing dopamine from being deactivated, therefore, raising its levels. High levels of dopamine are associated with an optimistic attitude and increased concentration.

PEA is often referred to as the ‘love chemical’, and its responsible for the endorphin rush post exercise, when you are so captivated by a good book or movie or even when indulging in a chocolatey treat.

Some great ways to incorporate more algae into the diet can be through adding spirulina into green smoothies, home made salsa, salad dressings or just mixed into water with lemon juice. Always start with a small dose when having things for the first time – even if it is a naturally occurring substance, we are all different and can all respond differently to foods.

Enjoy the sea vegetables & all the happiness they bring x 

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