Playing Your ACE’s
~ May 1997 No.5 ~
The next time you hear that someone is playing their ACE’s, don’t be surprised if it has nothing to do with casinos or even card games. Antioxidant are very much the Cinderella’s in the field of nutraceutrics right now, and for good reason. Several recent scientific articles quote epidemiological data that have indicated that the consumption of antioxidants can be beneficial in the prevention of cancers particularly cancer of the respiratory and upper digestive tract. There is also evidence that cardiovascular disease and the risk of cataracts are reduced in people consuming increased levels of antioxidants. Vitamins A, C and E are the principal antioxidants in the diet. Many fruits and vegetables are good sources of antioxidants.
The evidence is mounting supporting the benefits of antioxidants and so it is not surprising that vitamins in the supplement section of stores are a hot item, and that tablets of vitamins A, C and E are starting off the day for many people.
Vitamin A, also known as retinol, is a fat soluble vitamin that was first studied as a growth factor found in milk in the early 1900’s. We often consume vitamin A in the form of carotenoids that are found in plants. Foods that contain carotenoids pass down the intestinal tract, the carotenoids are partially converted to vitamin A as they are absorbed through the intestinal wall into the body. Liver, fish liver oils, carrots and green vegetables such as spinach, parsley and turnip greens are the best dietary sources of vitamin A or carotenoids. Over time, if high levels are consumed, vitamin A can build up in the body and reach toxic levels.
Vitamin C or ascorbic acid may be best known as the vitamin that Nobel Prize winner (actually winner twice) Dr. Linus Pauling claimed could prevent and reduce the severity of the common cold. Vitamin C deficiency has been known since the European sailors set off in boats with insufficient supplies of fresh fruits and vegetables. Scurvy that caused bleeding gums, skin sores and lose of teeth was avoided in those pioneer days by eating limes. The British are referred to as “limies” even to-day for that reason. Strawberries, citrus fruits of all kinds and cabbage are all good sources of vitamin C.
Tocopherol or vitamin E has received a lot of press lately. The list of beneficial claims that have been made for vitamin E seems to grow daily. Once the chemical structure of vitamin E was described it became obvious why it has antioxidant properties, and why it works so well in combination with vitamins C and A. Vitamin E is a fat soluble vitamin and so it is not surprising that vegetable oils and margarines that are made from vegetable oils are the best dietary sources of vitamin E, although lower levels can be found in everything from fruit - blackberries and pears - to nuts such as peanuts and coconuts