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Sep 19, 2012

VIEW—The Science of Antioxidants Part 1

Here at MonaVie, we’ve been working hard on an exciting new technology—one that can help you “Get a VIEW” about your health and help you make some smart lifestyle decisions to take your health in the right direction.

We call this new device “MonaVie VIEW Antioxidant Scanner,” and it’s a revolutionary approach to getting a view INSIDE our bodies in terms of a very important aspect of our health—our level of antioxidant protection.

What are antioxidants?

Antioxidants are natural compounds that help protect us from reactive chemicals known as free radicals. These free radicals are produced as a by-product of our own metabolism (so we always have some exposure to free radicals), but free radicals are also found in air pollution, cigarette smoke, ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun, and lots of other places. Free radicals are basically all around us. In fact, anywhere that you find oxygen, you’ll find free radicals and the “oxidative damage” that they can cause, and overexposure to free radicals can lead to damaging effects throughout the body.

For example, free radicals can interact with and cause oxidative damage to delicate cellular structures such as cell membranes (so our cells don’t work correctly), or mitochondria (so we can’t generate energy efficiently), and even with our DNA (which can lead to many different types of health problems).

Our body can protect itself from free radicals and oxidative damage with antioxidants, which are nutrients that we should be getting in our foods. Antioxidants fall into 5 basic categories: vitamin C, vitamin E, thiols, carotenoids, and flavonoids.

You’ve probably heard about vitamin C and vitamin E. These are both powerful antioxidants that help to protect our bodies against different types of free radicals and in different parts of the body. For example, vitamin C (which is water-soluble) can fight free radicals in “aqueous” areas of the body (such as the blood), while vitamin E (which is fat-soluble) can fight different free radicals in “lipid” areas of the body (such as within cell membranes).

Thiols are a class of sulfur-containing antioxidants, such as glutathione, that we can get in our diet from vegetables such as asparagus and spinach, and that our body can produce on its own.

Carotenoids are a group of more than 600 natural pigments that give fruits and vegetables their bright yellow, red, and orange pigments. The most common in our diets are beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, lutein, lycopene, astaxanthin, and zeaxanthin.

Flavonoids are another class of powerful antioxidants and there are more than 4,000 flavonoids that have been identified in nature. You’ll find the richest dietary sources of flavonoids in dark blue or purple fruits and vegetables such as red onions, blueberries, and yes, the acai berry—but you can also find flavonoids in tea, coffee, wine, and chocolate.

You’ve probably already guessed the main problem with antioxidants—the fact that they’re mostly found in brightly colored fruits and vegetables. Let’s face it, most of us simply don’t eat as many fruits and vegetables as we know we should. In fact, data from the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture), the IOM (Institute of Medicine), and the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) indicate that most of us get less than 2 servings of fruits and vegetables on a daily basis—when we’re supposed to be getting 10–15 servings every single day!

It’s even worse than not getting “enough” fruits and vegetables because even when we do eat fruit, it’s most likely to be orange juice (which also has a lot of sugar). And when we eat a vegetable it’s most likely to be a potato (in the form of French fries). I’m guessing that you don’t need a nutritionist like me to tell you that a diet of OJ and French fries is not going to lead to optimal health.

Watch for part 2 of this series later in the week. We’ll answer the question, “Why do you want to measure antioxidants?” You won’t want to miss it!

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