“Methuselah lived 900 years. / But who calls that livin’ / when no woman’s givin’ / to a man who lived 900 years?” – George Gershwin (Porgy in “Porgy and Bess”)
There’s an 88-year-old patient in my practice who is very different from other elderly men. Despite drinking, smoking, and eating whatever he likes, he’s never spent a day in the hospital and he takes no medications. He also has a quick wit and a spring in his step that is very uncharacteristic of a man his age. So, with his consent, I decided to investigate.
I measured just about every chemical in his blood that I could. His results were normal in every way except one:
He had the highest levels I have ever seen of several key antioxidants. Since that time, I have confirmed this correlation in many of my other patients and in the medical literature.
I have also found that you can get the same rejuvenating and energizing effects by boosting your own levels of antioxidants.
Like every other animal on the planet, you get your energy through a process called oxidation. The process liberates energy in your body, and it occurs outside of living systems as well. For instance, when oxidation occurs externally and rapidly, we call it fire.
Fire can be useful, because it creates an enormous amount of energy quickly. But it is also dangerous, because it is a destructive process. Similarly, you have to burn energy through oxidation to live but oxidation also damages surrounding tissues. And the higher the rate of oxidation, the greater the damage.
For example, it’s not the amount of cholesterol you have but the oxidation of LDL cholesterol that correlates to cardiovascular disease. And scientists are discovering that oxidation accelerates the aging process in other organ systems as well.
This is the reason behind one of the main paradoxes of modern medicine. Many common health and dietary recommendations are tantamount to not living at all. They’re wet-blanket prescriptions to avoid this and that until there is nothing left for fun at all — and they’re all designed to minimize activities that cause oxidation.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Antioxidants are your body’s natural free-radical fighters. Boost their presence in your body as you age and you can continue to rev on high without burning out your engine.
Antioxidants are a group of diverse vitamins, minerals, and enzymes that protect your delicate biomachinery from the fire of living. They do that by fighting free radicals. Free radicals are fragments of unstable oxygen molecules produced as byproducts of oxidation — very high-energy molecules that are like the proverbial “bull in the china shop.” When they collide with delicate living structures, they set off a chain reaction of destruction. The higher the rate of oxidation, the more free radicals you produce.
The problem is that your antioxidant system declines with age. At the same time, the more active a life you live, the more you tend to overwhelm your natural antioxidants.
But I don’t want to stop living hard. I don’t really even want to slow down. And I don’t advise my patients to do anything that I’m not willing to do myself. So my solution has been an aggressive regimen of antioxidant supplementation.
Through research and testing, I have sorted through the hype and discovered which antioxidants really work. I call these the “Magnificent Seven” of antioxidants:
1. vitamin C — 500 mg twice a day to slow aging
2. mixed carotenoids — 2,500 IU per day to preserve vision and protect against cancers
3. tocopherols and tocotrienols — 400 IU per day to protect against cancer and cardiovascular disease
4. coenzyme Q10 — 30 mg per day to protect your heart and brain
5. alpha lipoic acid — 100 mg per day
6. lycopene — 20 mg per day
7. lutein — 20 mg per day to protect the eyes against degeneration
These are the ones that really work. I take them every day — and if you want to continue to live your life at a robust pace, you should do the same.
(Editorial Note: Dr. Al Sears is the editor of Health Confidential for Men, a publication devoted to men’s health.)