Can Increasing Your Antioxidant Intake Protect Your Heart?
Antioxidants are natural compounds in the form of vitamins, minerals and other composites found in foods. They are thought to protect us by keeping free radicals in check and helping to prevent all manner of illness and disease, including heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
We naturally produce free radicals as we need them for vital functions that keep us healthy; for example, they can help to fight infection. However, when left unchecked, they can become extremely toxic and damaging to your health, eventually leading to death.
Fortunately, we naturally generate antioxidants to help fight excess free radicals, protecting us from oxidative stress, inflammation and damage to cells that result in chronic disease. But when free radicals outnumber your natural antioxidant defences, trouble can start.
External sources such as environmental pollution, toxic metals, pesticides, cigarette smoke,drugs, and a poor diet can also contribute to free radical damage. Stress can also be a factor, and sadly these days, we are unavoidably exposed to an increasing amount of all of these things.
So eating the right foods and taking care of mind, body and spirit can boost your antioxidant levels and improve your chances of staying healthy.
To supplement or not to supplement? That is the question.
There is a lot of confusion out there, and after countless studies, researchers still can’t agree whether or not supplementing with antioxidants is beneficial for heart disease.
The quality of trials has also been mixed, making it harder to determine who’s right and who’s wrong. But, essentially, there’s no definitive answer.
The over-arching view seems to be that, on balance, there are no stand-out positive results for supplementing. With some particular antioxidants, the opinion is to err on the side of caution as they have shown the potential to do more harm than good.
Here’s some information on the potential pros and cons of a select list of antioxidants when it comes to cardiovascular health.
Glutathione is a small antioxidant peptide produced in every cell of your body. It is incredibly valuable for protecting your long-term health and preventing disease.
Although we make it ourselves, from around the age of 45, our natural glutathione levels start to decline. Other factors such as toxicity, chronic disease, infection and stress can also affect it.
Glutathione is an excellent detoxer. So it is beyond beneficial for your overall health as it helps to eliminate toxins and reduce oxidative stress. This protection from toxicity lowers inflammation and the diseases associated with it, including heart disease.
But the problem is, our ever-increasing exposure to toxins causes our glutathione stores to more rapidly get used up, leaving us more susceptible to ill health.
It may help to promote heart health as researchers have discovered a link between glutathione deficiency, cardiac abnormalities and heart disease. In a 2007 study, researchers witnessed an increase in oxidative stress alongside a decrease in glutathione in patients with untreated hypertension.
Ischemia-reperfusion is the return of the blood supply to body tissues that have had insufficient blood flow. In a 2001 animal study, researchers used a combination of glutathione supplementation and exercise. They discovered that it protected against oxidative stress and the compromised heart function caused by ischemia.
Peripheral artery disease happens when narrowing arteries limit the blood flow to your limbs. It can also be a sign of atherosclerosis and is most commonly experienced in the legs, markedly impairing mobility.
But in one study, participants given an intravenous dose of glutathione twice daily for five days had improved pain-free walking over longer distances compared to the placebo group.
For maximum benefit, when taking a glutathione supplement, the quality – and how easily you absorb it – are crucial. After much research and consideration, we think that Planet Source Glutathione is superior in terms of quality, absorbability and its potentially positive impact on your health. So, if you are considering taking a supplement, this is the one for you.
Some researchers do support the use of vitamin E as a preventative for coronary heart disease (CHD). However, the consensus appears to be that vitamin E supplementation doesn’t have any particular benefit for heart disease.
Much research doesn’t show it to be harmful either, but there is some evidence pointing towards a potentially darker side.
In 2004, John Hopkins researchers looked into the effect of vitamin E supplementation on cardiovascular disease and cancer.
After re-analysing the data from 19 major trials involving 136,000 patients in North America, they found that doses above 400IU of vitamin E had an increased risk of death.
However, there were limitations to the research, such as small study sizes, and only performing research on patients who were already chronically ill. So it’s hard to tell what the risk would be for healthy people taking higher doses of vitamin E. It’s also unclear whether lower daily doses of 200IU or less, could be harmful.
Whether you believe in taking vitamin E supplements or not, in food form, this potent fat-soluble antioxidant vitamin has powerful health benefits.
It helps to fight infection, protects cells from damage, and may potentially lower the risk of many health problems, aiding in the prevention of chronic illness, including heart disease.
This impressive antioxidant can bolster your body’s natural defences, boost your immune system, protect your cells and negate the harmful effects of free radical damage. However, research on the benefits of supplementing for heart disease, is again, mixed.
In the book ‘Nutritional and Integrative Strategies in Cardiovascular Medicine‘, Sinatra. T. and Houston. MC. state that in an analysis of 13 trials, 500mg per day of vitamin C, from 3 to 24 weeks, significantly lowered LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. The best results showed in participants with the highest lipid levels, and lowest serum levels of vitamin C.
In short-term trials, researchers also found that supplementing with vitamin C at a median dose of 500mg per day, lowered both systolic and diastolic blood pressure.
More research has linked high supplemental intake of vitamin C at 700mg and above with a reduced incidence of coronary heart disease events.
You don’t have to take supplements, though. Getting adequate vitamin C by consuming plenty of fruit and vegetables high in this powerful antioxidant can be enough to help reduce your risk of heart disease and early death.
Some research involving Finnish smokers over six years has linked beta-carotene supplementation with an increased risk of death from coronary heart disease as well as an increased mortality rate of 8%.
The dose ranged from 15 to 50mg per day, and an increased risk applied when beta-carotene was taken alone or in conjunction with vitamin E (ranging from 50 to 800IU a day).
Along with vitamin C and other antioxidants, carotenoids found in food may help to protect against cardiovascular disease, in part, by preventing the oxidation of cholesterol in the arteries.
You’ll find beta-carotene in brightly coloured fruits and vegetables such as carrots, squash, sweet potato, leafy greens, red and yellow peppers, cantaloupes and apricots.
Berberine is a natural, yellow alkaloid found in the stems and roots of healing plants such as Oregan Grape, Tree Turmeric, Goldenseal, Barberry, Cork-Tree, and Chinese Goldthread.
Some small studies have looked into berberine’s ability to lower cholesterol with some success. In the book mentioned above, Sinatra and Houston discuss a small study involving 32 dyslipidemic patients (with an abnormal amount of lipids in the blood).
After taking 500mg of berberine for three months, their total cholesterol reduced by as much as 29%. Their LDL cholesterol also went down by 25% and total triglycerides by 35%.
Berberine also increases LDL and lipid-lowering effects when taken with statins at a dose of around 500mg per day.
It works powerfully without statins, though, as shown in a study involving 80 statin-intolerant participants with high cholesterol. The non-placebo group took a supplement containing 500mg of berberine combined with policosanol, red yeast rice, folic acid, coenzyme Q10, and astaxanthin.
The results were promising, showing a significant reduction in total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and insulin resistance. The patients tolerated the treatment well, which came without the raft of statin side effects.
Water for Health recommends Planet Source Berberine which comes in a high 1200mg dose. It derives from the Berberis aristata root, also known as Indian barberry. It is non-GMO, vegan-friendly and free from corn, sugar, salt, wheat, soy, gluten and artificial ingredients.
If you are on prescription medication, please check with your GP before taking berberine as it may interact with some drugs, and some interactions may be severe.
The antioxidant merits of a nutritious diet
Antioxidants like glutathione and berberine are hard to get from food, so supplementing with them can be beneficial. But, in general, when it comes to heart health and your overall wellbeing, it’s most advantageous to eat an antioxidant-rich diet.
Supplementing in excess may be problematic, and obtaining your antioxidants from food is both healthier and safer.
Often, supplements provide the vitamin or mineral in isolation, and they don’t come with the advantages that an array of fruits, vegetables and other foods have to offer.
For example, blueberries are exceptionally high in antioxidants and beneficial plant compounds. As well as providing around 24% of your daily vitamin C allowance in one cup, they also contain fibre, and several vitamins and minerals, including folate, B vitamins, and beta-carotene.
This makes blueberries especially good for you. They are nutrient-dense and packed full of goodies with a multitude of health benefits, including reducing your risk of cardiovascular disease.
A diverse diet with a wide array of fruits, vegetables and other plant foods like nuts, seeds and oils can help to keep you and your heart healthy by providing an abundance of antioxidants, flavonoids, polyphenols, plant sterols, vitamins and minerals.
One 2007 pilot study spanning two years, involved 51 patients (44 were men) between the ages of 40 and 75 years, who were asymptomatic for coronary heart disease. They were instructed to take three phytonutrient capsules twice daily and were monitored at four-month intervals.
The pills contained a powder consisting of fruits, vegetables and berries including (but not exclusive to) broccoli, cabbage, acerola cherry, apple, beetroot, bilberry, blackberry, blueberry, blackcurrant, carrot, cranberry, orange, papaya, parsley, spinach and tomato. Six daily capsules provided beta-carotene, vitamins C and E, and folate.
By the end of follow-up, the patients systolic and diastolic blood pressure had reduced considerably, vascular health was substantially improved, and homocysteine levels significantly decreased. The researcher’s findings support consuming plant nutrients as a valuable part of a heart-healthy diet.
So, if you want to give your antioxidant profile boost, a phytonutrient powder or capsules could be beneficial. They preserve the entire nutrient value from whole foods, concentrating and condensing them into supplement form.
Spectrum Vibrance is a superfood blend providing exceptionally high levels of antioxidants. It’s a full-spectrum food supplement which combines 36 specially-selected red, yellow, blue and green fruits and vegetables with antioxidant-rich botanical extracts.
This nutrient-dense powder supplies you with many of the nutrients and phytonutrients required to reach optimum health. Just add to water, juice or a protein drink to reap the benefits of this high-quality formulation.
Written by Rebecca Rychlik-Cunning, Nutritional Therapist and Homeopath. Follow Rebecca on Instagram, Facebook and Medium, @rebeccabitesback.
Antioxidants like glutathione and berberine are hard to get from food, so supplementing with them can be beneficial. #HeartHealth #Cardiovascular