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Aging And The Benefits Of Antioxidants
Everybody ages, but as this happens, an increasing number of people are developing brain-related disorders that include memory loss, awareness impairment, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Why are these problems occurring?
As the brain ages the number of healthy neurons or nerve cells is slowly but progressively declining. Over time, continuous damage from “oxidative stress” (a factor of aging made worse by environmental problems related to pollution, tobacco, excessive sunlight) can deteriorate overall brain function. This deterioration may affect your ability to respond to immediate needs like instant recall or prompt decision-making. Even though symptoms of brain aging may not appear in the early senior years, your brain may be slowly losing these capabilities. In severe cases, these symptoms may be a warning sign for slowly evolving Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease.
How can we slow or stop this process?
A Leading Role for Dietary Antioxidants
Research over recent years has begun to show that the brain ages mainly due to a combination of damaging oxidative stress and decreased amount of antioxidant defenses, often due to a diet lacking antioxidant-rich foods. High levels of reactive oxygen species (sometimes called “free radicals” that are produced by normal metabolism), left unchecked by sufficient dietary antioxidants can accelerate brain problems. Antioxidants are thought to neutralize these damaging free radicals, helping to prevent further cell and tissue damage. This idea is leading to further research about brain aging.
Many studies have shown that individuals who consume a regular intake of colorful fruits and vegetables may reduce their risk for developing age-related disorders. Research from the laboratory of Dr. Jim Joseph, US Department of Agriculture, Boston, suggests that dietary supplementation with fruit or vegetable extracts high in antioxidants (e.g. blueberry or spinach extracts called phenolics or carotenoids) might decrease our vulnerability to oxidative stress that occurs with aging.
These findings imply that regular consumption of antioxidant-rich foods could beneficially affect three primary conditions determining Alzheimer’s disease:
Such an effect remains an untested but promising hypothesis for human clinical trials.
This research also forms a reasonable and simple basis for making dietary recommendations to seniors. In other words, include colorful plant foods in each day’s diet to promote slow and healthy aging.
* PubMed, online database of the US National Library of Medicine, http://pubmed.gov
Copyright 2006 Berry Health Inc.
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