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The Fountain of Youth Lies within
The antioxidant approach to anti-aging.
When Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said "the Fountain of Youth is within us," he was closer to the truth about youth than he ever could have known. In modern times, many seek the Fountain of Youth “elsewhere,” in the form of botox injections, microdermabrasions and facelifts. While these procedures may create a superficially youthful appearance, the sands of time still run just as quickly inside the body. The present-day Ponce de Leons are not the doctors who perform nose jobs and liposuction; they are the scientists and researchers who have found clues that indicate the Fountain of Youth may lie deep within us, in our very cells. By examining and understanding the aging process, we can address the causes of aging before treating the symptoms—and develop anti-aging strategies that slow down time both inside and out.
To understand anti-aging, we first must ask, “What is aging?” In simple terms, aging is characterized by the gradual breakdown and death of cells. The most widely accepted explanation for this cellular breakdown is the free radical theory, which was developed by pioneering aging researcher Dr. Denham Harman in 1954. Harman’s theory is that free radicals—charged molecules produced naturally as the body uses oxygen—accelerate aging by aggressively attacking and damaging our cells.
But why are these free radicals so angry at the world? Because they are one electron short of stability and will do anything to get that electron—even steal it by bouncing off neighboring molecules. This process, also known as oxidation, brings stability to the free radical, but turns the “victim” molecule into a new free radical. This chain reaction runs rampant, as marauding free radicals wildly smash against nearby cells in a perpetual cycle of electron looting. It is thought that over time, this smashing action damages cells, tissues and even DNA, ultimately contributing to aging.
Stress Inside and Out
We can almost forgive internally produced free radicals for their wild electron-robbing sprees. After all, free radicals are a byproduct of the oxygen “burning” process that gives us the energy to live. In addition, our bodies do have some natural defenses that help to keep such damage in check.
But free-radical levels within the body skyrocket when you add the burden that comes from external sources, leading to a state known as oxidative stress. Poor diet, depression, inadequate exercise, smoking, UV rays, toxins and pollution—the ubiquitous elements of modern life—can increase the ranks of free radicals so they overwhelm our natural defenses, igniting a devastating chain reaction of cellular destruction.
One can observe the free radical theory of aging at work all around us: Heavy smokers, substance abusers and sun worshipers simply seem to age more quickly, acquiring wrinkles and showing skin that has lost its supple, youthful elasticity at a ...
The Vitamin with Heart
The latest knocks on vitamin E's value as our heartiest nutrient are nothing new.
By Patrick Dougherty
From June, 2005
If someone made a Hollywood movie with vitamin E as the main character, what would be the plot? Vitamin E might play a poor peasant who is suddenly found to be of royal blood and is crowned a king. How about vitamin E as a humorless high school loner who becomes a handsome and idolized billionaire? Or perhaps vitamin E could play an unknown boxer who against all odds becomes champion of the world?
Vitamin E has persevered through decades of skepticism about its role and value as a nutritional supplement, including recent stories in the media suggesting that its benefits as a heart healthy vitamin are overstated. But like a true cinematic hero, vitamin E has overcome the criticism to emerge triumphant in the worldwide health community; it is still regarded by most experts as a supplement possessing extraordinary health benefits, especially for those with current or potential cardiovascular problems. To put it simply, vitamin E is a supplement with a lot of heart.
The Little Vitamin That Could
Vitamin E’s long and bumpy road to prominence is an epic tale. This powerful antioxidant was first discovered in 1922 by University of California researchers Herbert Evans and Katherine Bishop, who found it in green leafy vegetables. But Canadian doctors Evan and Wilfrid Shute were the first to champion the vitamin’s potential health benefits. In the 1930s, Evan Shute achieved successful results experimenting with vitamin E as a treatment to prevent miscarriage. By the early 1940s, Evan and his cardiologist brother, Wilfrid, had discovered that vitamin E also had a powerfully positive effect on the cardiovascular system. The Shutes showed that when administered in large doses, vitamin E was effective in the treatment and prevention of coronary disease.
When the Shutes attempted to publicize their findings, however, the medical and scientific communities reacted as if they had a collective angina attack. The ease with which vitamin E was treating unhealthy hearts was regarded as too good to be true. Such criticism from the medical community impeded vitamin E’s rise to widespread acceptance, rendering one of the most significant discoveries in cardiovascular health largely ignored.
“Hundreds of thousands more may die while scholars debate the etiological issue,” the Shutes wrote at the time. “Many more will go about clutching their anginal chests. What’s to do in the meantime? Oxygen tents and anticoagulants, rest, reassurance by experts that this is really a mild disease, seem to meet the situation poorly.” Evan Shute put it even more succinctly: “We didn’t make vitamin E so versatile. God did. Ignore its mercy at your peril.”
But the Shutes’ results could not...