The Anti-Aging Revolution


Eileen Higgins, MD, FACS

“Out, out, brief candle! Life’s but a walking shadow”
-William Shakespeare

 Not really meant to be SO brief, 130-135 years as a norm.

From the Rodale book, Renewal

“Very few individuals, if any, reach their potential maximum life span; they die instead prematurely of a wide variety of diseases–the vast majority being ‘free radical’ (chronic) diseases.”   Denham Harmon, M.D., Ph.D., who in 1954 first proposed the Free Radical Theory of aging

Yes, Dr. Harmon had it right, 62 years ago.

Molecules are stable with an even number of electrons in their outer valence.  Free radicals have an odd number of electrons in their outer zone (valence).  So, there is an unpaired electron; this makes the molecule unstable.  This instability causes molecular, then cellular, then organ and organ system damage over time.   Antioxidants transform free radicals into harmless molecules by giving them the extra electron, without themselves becoming free radicals.  In other words, the antioxidant has an extra electron to give away.

Oxidative stress: the paradox of aerobic life.

Screen Shot 2016-02-26 at 1.50.02 PMEach oxygen atom has one unpaired electron in its outer valence shell, so molecular oxygen has two unpaired electrons. Hence, oxygen is a free radical.

Reactive intermediates of oxygen are extremely reactive (unstable) and are common products of life in an aerobic environment. These agents appear to be responsible for oxygen toxicity.

We are able to adapt to such fluctuating stresses by the synthesis of antioxidant enzymes and damage removal/repair enzymes inherent in our bodies.  However, despite the antioxidant and repair mechanisms of the body, oxidative damage remains an inescapable outcome of aerobic existence.  This is why we are not immortal, yet we are supposed to live a lot longer than we do.

We do not live to the planned 130 or so years because we inundate ourselves with oxidants (poor diet, lack of sleep, pollution, dehydration, stress, …) many more than our bodies can even begin to neutralize.  A normal, healthy person will usually produce enough antioxidant enzymes to keep both free radicals and normal cells in balance. But many of us are not in the “stunningly healthy” category, and could give our bodies an assist.

What can you do about free radicals on the rise?

Screen Shot 2016-02-26 at 1.50.16 PM*   THE most oxidative (free radical producing) dietary item is saturated animal fat.  So, that is the reason to cut it out of the diet, red meat, pork, chops, ribs, any protein source that is not lean poultry, fish or beans/legumes … out.

* Eat antioxidants:  blue (dark) berries, raw nuts (watch the portion), black coffee (in moderation), spices – turmeric, oregano, rosemary, cinnamon, and vanilla, dark grapes, dark green vegetables, green tea, whole grains, cold water fish – sardines, salmon, oysters, mackerel, tuna steak, wild rainbow trout, shark steak, albacore tuna, and herring, to name several examples.

* Organic produce contains more nutrients and antioxidants than conventionally grown varieties!

* In summary: take a trip to the produce section of your grocery store and stock up on colorful fruits and vegetables; don’t forget whole grains, brown rice, legumes, and beans.

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