The Antioxidant Network

Dr. Shawn Talbott (Ph.D., CNS, LDN, FACSM, FACN, FAIS) has gone from triathlon struggler to gut-brain guru! With a Ph.D. in Nutritional Biochemistry, he's on a mission to boost everyday human performance through the power of natural solutions and the gut-brain axis.

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Here’s another excerpt from my 10th book, The Secret of Vigor – How to Overcome Burnout, Restore Biochemical Balance and Reclaim Your Natural Energy

Some of the most popular New Year’s resolutions every year are:
*Lose Weight
*Get in Shape
*Reduce Stress
*Get Healthier
*Win the Lottery

The Secret of Vigor can help you with 4 out of 5 of the most popular resolution goals, so I’ll be posting excerpts from the book for the next several weeks – so please stay tuned for each installment.

If you simply can’t wait, then you can certainly get a copy at or at your favorite library or bookstore.

The Antioxidant Network
1. Carotenoids (including beta-carotene, lycopene, and lutein)
2. Vitamin E “complex” (tocopherols/tocotrienols)
3. Vitamin C “complex” (ascorbic acid plus bioflavonoids)
4. Thiols (e.g., sulfur-containing compounds, such as alpha-lipoic acid and cysteine)
5. Flavonoids (vitamin-like phytonutrients, including polyphenols from citrus and berries, and catechins from tea)

In theory, smaller doses of these antioxidant agents, when combined, will help combat free radicals directly. Further, they could also regenerate one another following free-radical quenching, thus delivering a more-effective and safer antioxidant regimen than with higher doses of isolated antioxidant nutrients. This combined approach to antioxidant supplementation is also logical, because certain antioxidants will work primarily against certain free radicals and in specific parts of the body (for example, vitamin E against hydroxyl radicals and within cell membranes or vitamin C against superoxide and within aqueous spaces).

Thousands of studies have clearly documented the beneficial effects of dozens of antioxidant nutrients, and thousands of nutrients and phytochemicals possess significant antioxidant activity. Increased dietary intake of antioxidant nutrients—such as vitamins C and E, such minerals as selenium, and various phytonutrients, such as extracts from grape seed, pine bark, and green tea—have all been linked to reduced rates of oxidative damage. This intake of antioxidants may also help reduce the incidence of such chronic diseases as heart disease and cancer.

But megadose supplementation with antioxidants can easily become a case of “too much of a good thing” and actually begin to interfere with normal cellular metabolism. This concept of antioxidant network balance—not too few, but also not too many—requires remembering that cells need representatives from each and every one of these categories to mount the strongest antioxidant defense.

Think of it in sports terms: Even if you were the best swimmer in the world (say, Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps), you’re not going to win the Ironman triathlon without also being a strong cyclist and runner. The analogy of baseball works as well. If your team included the best homerun hitter in the world but poor pitching and fielding, then your baseball team would probably not win the World Series. The same thing holds true with your antioxidant defenses—green tea, vitamin E, or beta-carotene are all wonderful antioxidants on their own, but combining them to create a network that performs together in different parts of the body and against different types of free radicals is most effective.

Another concept regarding antioxidant nutrition involves helping the body to produce its own internal (endogenous) antioxidants such as the powerful antioxidant enzymes catalase, superoxide dismutase, and glutathione peroxidase. The enzymes are many times more potent than the dietary (exogenous) antioxidants that we consume in the diet, so it makes sense to encourage your body’s natural production of such powerful protectors (in addition to eating a bright and balanced diet).

Just as with other aspects of your health and lifestyle, if you keep the concept of “balance” in mind when it comes to your antioxidant nutrition, then your body will be healthier, stronger, and more able to respond to the demands of living, working, and “playing” at the highest level possible.

About the Author

Exercise physiologist (MS, UMass Amherst) and Nutritional Biochemist (PhD, Rutgers) who studies how lifestyle influences our biochemistry, psychology and behavior - which kind of makes me a "Psycho-Nutritionist"?!?!

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