Natural Antioxidants

December 4, 2008

Today's consumer is exposed to the term "antioxidants" now more than ever, as the mainstream media has stressed the importance of incorporating antioxidants into the diet.

Today's consumer is exposed to the term "antioxidants" now more than ever, as the mainstream media has stressed the importance of incorporating antioxidants into the diet.

Antioxidants are substances that help defend the body against cell damage caused by various free radicals. Free radicals are unstable oxygen molecules that have been mutated by exposure to pollution, the sun's rays, etc. and seek to attach themselves to various cells in the body and change the cell composition. When this happens, the cells and DNA are damaged and reproduce in mutations that can lead to many different ailments. The best way to fight against free radicals is to consume a variety of antioxidants, especially natural antioxidants.

Companies are increasingly anxious to ensure that additives are natural, as consumers increasingly tend to shun artificial ones. According to market researchers Frost and Sullivan (San Antonio, TX), the synthetic antioxidant market is in decline, while natural antioxidants, such as natural vitamin E and herb extracts are growing, pushed by easier consumer acceptance and legal requirements for market access. The following is a selective review of potentially useful nutrients that are considered to be effective natural antioxidants.

Natural Vitamin E
Vitamin E is available in many different forms. In its natural form, vitamin E is designated d-, as in-d-alpha-tocopherol, while its synthetic forms are dl-, as in dl-alpha-tocopherol. The human body only recognizes the dl form. Therefore, natural vitamin E (the d form) has greater benefit than the synthetic (dl). At least twice as much natural vitamin E is retained in humans than the synthetic form of the supplement.

Research studies have shown that natural vitamin E fights oxygen free radicals and enhances overall health. Natural vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that protects human cells and LDL cholesterol from oxidation damage caused by free radicals. Experts suggest that natural vitamin E supplementation may increase immunity in the elderly. As an antioxidant, natural vitamin E assists in protecting cells against the effects of chemicals, pollutants, chemicals, and the sun's ultraviolet rays.

The recommended dietary allowance for natural vitamin E is only 15 mg or 22 IU per day. However, the most commonly recommended dosage of supplemental natural vitamin E for adults is 400 to 800 IU per day.

Green Tea Extract
For centuries, the art of drinking and serving tea has played a major cultural role in many Asian countries. Americans are now discovering this healthful brew. Green tea extract has become successful as consumers learn more about EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate), which is an antioxidant polyphenol flavonoid isolated from green tea. As a catechin, it may protect cells and tissues against free radicals in the body.

Studies have shown that green tea is a powerful antioxidant that supports cardiovascular health and promotes dental health and glucose metabolism. Researchers discovered the health benefits of green tea extract while seeking the reason for low incidences of disease among the Japanese people. Several studies identified the polyphenols and catechins in the green tea most Japanese people consume to be a major dietary factor in their longevity and resilience. Specifically, research found polyphenols, and primarily EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate), to have antioxidant activity 25 to 100 times more potent than that of vitamins C and E.

Rosemary Extracts
Rosemary extracts are derived from Rosmarinus officinalis L and contain several compounds proven to have strong antioxidative functions, thus slowing down or preventing the oxidation of molecules. This can help increase product shelf life.

Industry members began applying for rosemary extract to be accepted as an antioxidant more than 10 years ago. Recently, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has explored the safety of the additive's principal antioxidative components, the phenolic diterpenes carsonol and carnosic acid, and defined rosemary extract as safe for use as an antioxidant in food, expanding application opportunities and increasing its natural appeal. The decision means rosemary extract will now be added to an official list of acceptable food additives for use in food, and gains an E number.

Rosemary extract's antioxidant effect is higher than many other natural antioxidants. Moreover, rosemary extract has high heat stability and can remain stable at up to 240 degrees, making it suitable for frying oil and snack food applications.

Pomegranate Extract
Pomegranate extract is a rich source of antioxidants. Pomegranate extract contains the extraordinarily powerful polyphenol ellagic acid, a highly efficient free radical scavenger. Ellagic acid has also been studied for its healing benefits. Noted for its versatility, pomegranate extract offers antioxidant benefits and protection both topically as well as internally in supplement form.

In most of the human clinical trials, the pomegranate extract has been found effective in reducing various heart risk factors, including LDL oxidation, macrophage oxidative status, and foam cell formation. Pomegranate extracts also reduce systolic blood pressure by inhibiting serum angiotension converting enzyme (ACE). In addition, studies have revealed that pomegranate extract could be potentially used as a chemo-preventive agent. Food and dietary supplement makers have become aware of the advantages of using pomegranate extracts as healthy ingredients in their products.

Grape Seed Extract
Grape seed extract contains powerful phytomedicines that provide multiple benefits to the body, including pain relief, anti-inflammatory action, and free radical protection.

Grape seed extract contains flavonoids called oligomeric procyanidins (OPCs), which provide the body with 50 times more antioxidant protection than either vitamin C or natural vitamin E, and helps prevent and correct damage to capillaries throughout the body. Grape seed extract helps relieve symptoms associated with free radical damage and poor circulation, including chronic venous insufficiency (CVS), varicose veins, macular degeneration, and diabetic retinopathy. OPCs in grape seed extract also tone the capillaries and increase blood supply to the skin, which helps to prevent the breakdown of collagen. When applied topically, grape seed extract also acts as an alpha-hydroxy acid, and is used in many cosmetic lotions and creams designed to improve skin tone and diminish fine wrinkles. Grape seed extract contains significant amounts of resveratrol, a substance that acts as an anti-inflammatory and has demonstrated an ability to lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels and provide antioxidant protection.

Grape seed extract is available at some pharmacies and most health food stores. The recommended dose is 75–300 mg of grape seed extract daily for up to 3 weeks, then a daily maintenance dose of 40–100 mg.

Lycopene
Lycopene is a prominent member of the carotenoid family present in human blood and tissues. The major dietary sources of lycopene for the human are tomatoes and tomato products. Lycopene is a proven antioxidant and appears to exhibit strong antioxidant capabilities. A number of studies suggest that a diet high in lycopene may be associated with a lower risk of prostate cancer and cardiovascular disease. There are several biochemical mechanisms potentially underlying the protective effects of lycopene. These include antioxidant activity such as the quenching of singlet oxygen and the scavenging of peroxyl radicals, induction of cell-cell communication, and growth control.

In the mid 1990s, a Harvard University (Boston) study conducted with nearly 50,000 men found that eating 10 or more servings a week of tomato products-which are high in lycopene-was associated with a reduced risk of prostate cancer by as much as 34% in some cases.

Lutein
Lutein is part of the carotenoid family (over 600 have been identified in foods). Lutein is natural fat-soluble yellowish pigment found in a variety of plants, algae, and photosynthetic bacteria. Marigold flower contains abundant amounts of lutein and is usually the natural source of the pigment. Lutein functions as accessory light-gathering pigments and protects against the toxic effects of ultra-violet radiation and oxygen.

Lutein is one of six carotenoids that used significantly by the body's blood and tissues. Lutein cannot be synthesized by human beings and other animals, but plays an important physiological role. It works as an antioxidant to protect cell damage from free radicals. Lutein may act as a filter to protect the macula from potentially damaging forms of ultraviolet light. Consequently, lutein is believed by many experts assist in prevention against age-related macular degeneration (the leading cause of blindness in older adults). A recent study indicated that adults with a high intake of lutein had a nearly 60% decrease in risk of macular degeneration compared with individuals with a lower intake. In a similar study a link was suggested between low lutein intake and an increase risk of developing cataracts.

These natural antioxidants are becoming increasingly popular with consumers. From 2000 to 2009, the market for natural antioxidants is expected to experience a compound annual growth rate of 35%. The industry of natural antioxidants is, and will continue to be, a booming industry worldwide.

Fenchem Inc. is located in Chino, CA. For more information, contact Fenchem by visiting www.fenchem.com or calling 888/966-1199.