Friday, December 17, 2010

An ironclad road to death? by Jerry Brainum

In recent years it has become apparent that many degenerative diseases have a large oxidative component. While the body does have innate protective antioxidant systems, represented by enzymes such as superoxide dismutase, catalase, and glutathione, these enzymes gradually become less active as we age. This opens the door to such maladies as cardiovascular disease, cancer, and brain degeneration represented by Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and others. But where does all this increased oxidation come from? Some scientists suggest that minerals that can act as oxidants, such as iron and copper are the key.
     One such scientist is Professor Douglas Kell, who recently wrote an exhaustive review in the journal Archives of Toxicology pointing an accusing finger at excess free iron. Normally iron is carried in the blood bound tightly to proteins, such as transferritin, and also hemoglobin in red blood cells. It's also stored with another protein called ferritin. The point here is that when iron is bound to these various proteins, it does not cause any damage in the body, unless you have a genetic disease such as hemochromotosis, in which large amounts of iron build up in the body.The problem is that iron has a tendency to become displaced from its protein-binders in blood and tissue. When that happens, the free or unbound iron becomes very reactive when exposed to oxygen. One product that results from this reaction is hydroxyl free radicals, which can damage cellular membranes through oxidation. The oxidation effect of iron is magnified when exposed to vitamin C, which combined with free--not bound--iron increases oxidation and cellular damage. This doesn't mean that vitamin C is dangerous;it's only a problem when it encounters free iron in the blood.
    You may have heard about resveratrol, a compound found in plants such as grapes, and also in red wine that is touted as offering many health benefits, including antiaging effects. It turns out that one of the main benefits of resveratrol is that it binds to or chelates free iron and copper, thus acting like the built-in iron-binding proteins of the body to prevent free iron-induced oxidative reactions. These reactions, by the way, are particularly damaging to the brain because the brain is loaded with polyunsaturated fat that is easily oxidized. You can protect yourself against such reactions by consuming natural supplements and foods that bind to free iron. Besides resveratrol, various berries, such as blueberries, as well as green tea contain polyphenols that will prevent iron oxidation in the body. Doing so may spare your brain and body from the ravages of aging.

 ©,2015 Jerry Brainum. Any reprinting in any type of media, including electronic and foreign is expressly prohibited

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The Applied Ergogenics blog is a collection of articles written and published by Jerry Brainum over the past 20 years. These articles have appeared in Muscle and Fitness, Ironman, and other magazines. Many of the posts on the blog are original articles, having appeared here for the first time. For Jerry’s most recent articles, which are far more in depth than anything that appears on this blog site, please subscribe to his Applied Metabolics Newsletter, at This newsletter, which is more correctly referred to as a monthly e-book, since its average length is 35 to 40 pages, contains the latest findings about nutrition, exercise science, fat-loss, anti-aging, ergogenic aids, food supplements, and other topics. For 33 cents a day you get the benefit of Jerry’s 53 years of writing and intense study of all matters pertaining to fitness,health, bodybuilding, and disease prevention.


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