Do you want to retain your youth? … If so, it might be good to consider nutrients and foods associated with longevity.
The BodyMindLink series by Dr Ray Pataracchia ND provides insight on Nutritional and Naturopathic approaches that matter most and have the potential to benefit both your physical and mental health. In this series we look at the treatment approaches and body-mind-links of aging, tiredness, mental performance, work performance, digestive problems, food intolerances, stress, cardiovascular health, insomnia, weight problems, and chronic disease. Winter 2014 blog themes rotate between the topics of longevity, immunity, and weight problems. Clinical approaches discussed are implemented by the Naturopathic Medical Research Clinic in Toronto, Ontario.
Longevity (Part 1): Combating Aging Early with Longevity Nutrients
Longevity – A Three-Part Blog Series
We divided ‘Longevity’ blogs into three subtopics: i) combating aging with longevity nutrients, ii) combating aging by optimizing vascular health, and iii) healthy longevity lifestyles.
Combating Aging Early
All systems must be efficient for us to function efficiently now and as we age. The human body has about 15 metabolic syndromes associated with the physical and mental health aspects of aging. Here we focus on how to combat body systems compromises that come from the breakdown (oxidation) of molecular components of cells (cell membrane, DNA, proteins), a process that worsens as we age. The cell breakdown process starts at an early age. Supporting these pathways early is a good way to reap lifelong benefits because these antioxidant nutrients have physical and mental health benefits that address a host of global body needs for all age groups.
Our body is in a state of breakdown and that’s why we see skin wrinkling as we age. This breakdown state is symbolized by the apple illustration above, where cell unit structures change so much that only a representation of our youth remains.
Longevity as a Concept
The concept of using nutrients for longevity is often revealed in epidemiology studies where cultural habits (e.g. the consumption of red wine in France) or environmental conditions (e.g. climates with higher oxygen content) are highlighted.
That being said, we can also consider longevity as a concept by highlighting methods associated with preventing the breakdown of cells and/or optimizing body systems. Consider that a good portion of the population dies from vascular disease and cancer and that the use of nutrients and antioxidants associated with improving those conditions (or lessening the risk of getting those conditions) might also extend your life span. Lower cancer rates are for example found in people whose diets are rich in fruits and vegetables which are high in antioxidants.
The BodyMindLink series is all about how providing the right nutrients and correcting body systems can benefit both the body and the mind, and here you will see that antioxidant nutrients are no exception!
What Free Radicals Do To Your Body
Free radicals are highly reactive atoms formed by oxidation and they are directly involved in a cascade of damage targeting DNA, body proteins, and cell membranes. Antioxidants are used by the body as a defense against oxidation and this process needs to be kept in optimal balance.
Longevity Associated Antioxidants
Herein we go over the health benefits and food sources of the vitamin antioxidants that are by definition considered essential to human health; these include vitamin E and C, Beta-carotene, and selenium. These essential nutrients are intimately associated with our ‘concept of longevity’.
The basis of good clinical nutrition (the orthomolecular approach) is recognizing the simple nature provided nutrients that are deficient and keeping them in balance. There are thousands of antioxidants out there but the basic ones are critical to a host of bodily functions that provides us with an additional myriad of health benefits.
Vitamin E (d-alpha tocopherol)
This powerful antioxidant is a fat soluble vitamin that helps us maintain cell structure and function and keep free radicals at bay. Vitamin E safely interacts to neutralize free radical damage to smooth muscle (found in your blood vessels, reproductive tract, bladder, uterus, and digestive tract), cardiac muscle, and skeletal tissue. Vitamin E also supports red blood cell formation and helps in the storage of vitamin A, iron, selenium, and vitamin K.
Vitamin E: The BodyMindLink
Vitamin E deficiency affects your physical and mental health. The physical health conditions associated with vitamin E deficiency include male infertility, painful menstrual periods, clumsiness, rheumatoid arthritis, poor skin/scar/tissue healing, macular degeneration, cancer (some), and physical performance (in the elderly). The mental health issues associated with vitamin E deficiency include PMS, tardive dyskinesia, dementia (Alzheimer’s Disease), or any mental state compromise associated with significant brain oxidation (conditions such as schizophrenia, bipolar depression, or more well-known degenerative brain conditions such as dementia, Parkinson’s, and ALS).
Sources of Vitamin E
Vitamin E is high in fish oils, eggs, seeds, nuts, meat, poultry, vegetables, vegetable based oils, fruits (apricots), and cereal.
Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid)
Vitamin C is a powerful water soluble antioxidant and free radical scavenger. It is essential for the manufacture of neurotransmitters, collagen, and carnitine. Your adrenal glands regulate the stress response and have high concentrations of vitamin C. Vitamin C is involved as a cofactor in the efficient production of adrenal stress hormones.
Vitamin C: The BodyMindLink
Vitamin C deficiency affects your physical and mental health. The physical health issues associated with vitamin C deficiency include fatigue, muscle/joint pain, bruising, weight loss, viral infection, bronchitis, dental/skin/gum problems, wrinkles, arterial hardening (atherosclerosis), hypertension, flushed/red looking skin, ulcers (H. Pylori), lead toxicity, bone/cartilage loss, constipation, gall bladder disease, peripheral artery disease (women), some cancers, HIV, and strength performance (elderly). The mental health issues associated with vitamin C deficiency include lethargy, depression, mood vacillation, irritability, ADHD, and poor stress response.
Sources of Vitamin C
Vitamin C is high in citrus fruit, strawberries, kiwi, cherries, pineapple, mango, raspberries, tomatoes (also contain a powerful antioxidant called lycopene), potatoes, broccoli, red/green peppers, cabbage, cauliflower and green leafy vegetables.
Beta-carotene is a principle micro-nutrient vitamin antioxidant. It is a plant pigment that not only gives fruits and vegetables a vibrant color but is also an effective free radical neutralizer. Beta-carotene is a vitamin A (retinol) precursor and although vitamin A is not an antioxidant it is associated with healthy vision, digestive health and more.
Beta-carotene (& Vitamin A): The BodyMindLink
Beta-carotene deficiency affects your physical and mental health. The physical health issues associated with beta-carotene deficiency include greater risk of coronary artery disease, stroke, macular degeneration, other age-related symptoms/diseases, blindness in children, night blindness, acne, measles, poor digestion (vitamin A helps to reduce digestive tract inflammation), thick skin, rashes, skin irritation, hair loss, dry/inflamed eyes, shortness of breath, paleness, and prolonged infections (lung, kidney, bladder, intestine). The mental health issues associated with beta-carotene deficiency are poorly understood but any mental state compromise associated with significant brain oxidation (schizophrenia, bipolar depression, dementia, Parkinson’s, ALS) can benefit.
Sources of Beta-carotene
B-carotene is high in liver, milk, egg yolk, butter, carrots, squash, pumpkin, sweet potato, spinach, yams, broccoli, collards, tomato, cantaloupe, grains, apricots and peaches.
Selenium is a significant protective and defensive factor against free radicals and oxidative damage from both external (radiation and environmental toxins) and internal (metabolic by-products) sources.
Selenium is a component of glutathione peroxidase, an enzyme found in almost every cell. This enzyme is particularly abundant in red blood cells and is found primarily in platelets, phagocytes, liver cells and retinal cells. It is composed of four identical sub-units, each containing one atom of selenium.
Because glutathione peroxidase is active in the cytoplasm, its antioxidative effects are considered about 1000 times stronger than those of the fat soluble antioxidant vitamin E.
Selenium is needed for thyroid hormone formation and its deficiency is therefore implicated along with iodine in low thyroid conditions, which are more common as we age. For a full write up on selenium and iodine please refer to Earths Gift to Medicine: Minerals in Health & Disease: A Source Book for Doctors and Patients.
Selenium: The BodyMindLink
Selenium deficiency affects your physical and mental health. The physical health issues associated with selenium deficiency include autoimmune disease, AIDS, cancer, hypothyroidism, chronic infection, inflammation, muscle disease (including heart attacks), arteriosclerosis, liver disease (including alcoholism, cirrhosis), pancreatitis, diabetes, platelet aggregation disorders, heavy metal poisoning (especially mercury and cadmium), degenerative conditions (cataracts, glaucoma, aging, arthrosis or joint degeneration), and radiation damage.
The mental health issues associated with selenium deficiency include those associated with glutathione deficiency such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and low thyroid metabolism (low thyroid metabolism is a poorly acknowledged factor seen commonly in mood, behavior and psychotic disorders).
Sources of Selenium
Selenium is high in brazil nuts, fish (oysters, tuna), rice, other whole grains, meat (pork, beef, chicken, turkey), sunflower seeds, and mushrooms.