Delivering Antioxidant Effects The Right Way

Tuesday, October 17th, 2017

With consumers increasing demand for more healthful products, it is essential that food and beverages on the market that claim this, such as those with antioxidants, are truly healthful. Dr Vincent Candrawinata, Conjoint Fellow of The University of Newcastle, Australia and Founder of Renovatio Bioscience, discusses phenolic antioxidants and how to benefit from them properly.

Phenolics have always been regarded as the holy grail of antioxidants due to their potency. Technically, phenolics are a group of phytochemicals that demonstrate antioxidant activity as well as anti-histamine and anti-inflammatory activity. Antioxidant activity is the ability of compounds to protect against oxidative agents, such as free radicals.

Free radicals are unstable molecules constantly in the looking to steal electrons to gain stability. In the human body, the source of their stolen electrons is our cells. The devastating effect of free radicals does not only affect one cell but it initiates a chain reaction that affects multiple cells at one time, much like a domino effect.

Free radicals are produced in our body as by-products of natural bodily functions, such as respiration, and externally from the environment. Our body is excellent at fending off free radicals and keeping the negative effects oxidation under control. However, environmental pollution, prevalence of fast and processed foods and fast-paced contemporary lifestyles are exposing us to the highest ever levels of free radicals.

Phenolic antioxidants are being studied intensively because of their advantages over other antioxidant types and the potentially significantly increased benefits for human health.

Free Radicals & Pro-Oxidation

Studies show that phenolic antioxidant compounds have the ability to reduce cellular damage, and may be effective at protecting against a plethora of diseases linked to oxidative events, such as cardiovascular and respiratory disorders, cancers and diabetes.

Phenolics are powerful free radical ‘scavengers’ because of the numbers of hydroxyl groups in their chemical structures. The number of hydroxyl groups correspond to a compound’s ability to neutralise free radicals. The hydroxyl groups are essentially the electrons which are donated to free radical molecules to stop them stealing electrons from human body’s cells.

More importantly, the number of hydroxyl groups contribute to the stability of the phenolic antioxidants so that they do not become unsafe in the human body, even after neutralising free radicals. Other antioxidants, for example vitamin C, have less hydroxyl groups and after collecting a free radical, can become unstable—this is known as pro-oxidation and can do more harm than good.

Pro-oxidation, as the name suggests, is the polar opposite of the functions of antioxidant. Pro-oxidation happens because when an antioxidant molecule gives up its electron to neutralise a free radical molecule, it becomes a free radical itself. Therefore, although it neutralises one free radical molecule, it is now starting an oxidation chain reaction of its own.

Over the last few decades, antioxidants in food and supplements have emerged as a focus for maintaining and improving human health. Some research and healthy-eating commentators have attacked antioxidant supplements, as we know them, due to the pro-oxidation risk.

This criticism is substantiated by trials. One such trial, which started in 1994, found that daily doses of the antioxidant beta-carotene significantly elevated the risk of lung cancer in male smokers by 18 percent. In a 2011 trial involving more than 35,500 men over 50 found that large doses of another common antioxidan—vitamin E—increased the risk of prostate cancer by 17 percent.


Phenolic Antioxidants

Phenolic antioxidants, by not being prone to pro-oxidation, resolves the risks borne out in the studies. However, until recently, phenolic antioxidant compounds were not available with sufficient levels of bioavailability in the body.

Traditionally, supplements have been created one of two ways— synthetically in a laboratory or extracted from natural foods using chemicals, both of which are very difficult for the body to break down and absorb.

Antioxidants made synthetically or extracted from natural food using chemicals such as methanol, acetone or ethanol require these same chemicals to break them down, however the human body does not produce those chemicals, hindering human biological system to process, absorb and utilise them.

These unabsorbed and unused antioxidants are not only useless in the body, they could cause harm to the body’s system. High concentration of these unusable compounds adds to the workload of kidney and liver, which over a long period could have detrimental effects to the organs.

A simple example is that when someone consumes too many blueberries or drink beetroot or carrot juice, they would notice changes in their urine colour or sometimes experiencing diarrhoea. This is because human body can only absorb a tiny fraction of the phenolics at once and it has to flush out the unused portion.

Saturating the body with cocktail of antioxidants could also negatively impact the body’s indigenous antioxidant system, which could significantly increase the risk of exposure towards free radical damage.

In 2012, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) discontinued the use oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC) assay to measure antioxidant level in food and supplements because this method was false, inaccurate, not factual and non-representative of the antioxidant activity, capacity and availability in human body.

Nevertheless, ORAC assay is still widely used by companies selling antioxidant products, because this method gives their chemically extracted and/or synthesised product a seemingly high antioxidant level, which is very attractive as a marketing tool.

These high numbers mean nothing because they are all generated by measuring the antioxidant level in a laboratory environment which bears no similarity with human’s body. On the contrary, the higher the number, the higher the risk it could possess in terms of over loading the work of kidney and liver to eliminate them from the body. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) went as far as to making it illegal for companies to claim that products with high ORAC values possess any health benefits.


Safeguarding Phenolics


A new breed of all-natural dietary phenolics are emerging, accessed with a breakthrough technology that just uses water to extract and activate the phenolic antioxidants.

This technology gives the phenolic antioxidants the synergy, absorbability and bioavailability that are the keys in achieving therapeutic effects in a biological system—something common antioxidants cannot offer.

The unprecedented potency of the antioxidant is achieved through new natural extraction technology which involves no chemical solvent at any stage of the process. This is achieved by manipulating the behaviour of water molecules to extract and activate the phenolic antioxidants, resulting in a highly water-soluble antioxidant, which is 100 percent natural and entirely compatible with the human body.

This technology also allows for the creation of a single source broad spectrum antioxidant, instead of having to mix a number of different antioxidant sources, some of those are very much incompatible with human’s digestion system, such as tree barks which throughout the evolution process, had never been a food or nutrient source for Homo sapiens.

Phenolic antioxidants, when extracted in the right way and from the right sources, deliver a true broad spectrum of antioxidants. And being extracted from a single source, it offers not just any broad spectrum, but importantly, antioxidants that all work in synergy with each other, as well as, with the human body’s indigenous antioxidant system.

It is time for commentators to update their understanding of antioxidants. It is time to acknowledge that common antioxidant supplements are made either synthetically in a laboratory or extracted from natural foods using chemicals (methanol, acetone or ethanol), making them very difficult to break down and absorb and could potentially cause more harm than good.

It is time to understand that phenolic antioxidants, when properly sourced, extracted and activated, do work synergistically with the body to deliver real results.