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Newly Discovered Role of Vitamin C in Skin Protection

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Scientists have uncovered a new role played by vitamin C in protecting the skin, which could lead to better skin regeneration.

A form of vitamin C helped to promote wound healing and also helped protect the skin cells from DNA damage.

Even though vitamin C was discovered over 70 years ago, its properties are still under much debate in the scientific community. However, antioxidants such as vitamin C are known to counter the damaging effects of free radicals.

This new evidence suggest that, in addition to ‘mopping up’ free radicals, vitamin C can help remove the DNA damage they form if they get past a cell’s defenses.These findings are believed to be of great relevance to the cosmetics industry.

Resources:
Eurekalert September 9, 2009
Free Radical Biology & Medicine January 1, 2009; 46(1):78-87

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Black Tea May Fight Diabetes

 

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Black tea, long known for its antioxidants, immune boosting and antihypertensive properties, could have another health benefit.
Researchers studied the polysaccharide levels of green, oolong and black teas and whether they could be used to treat diabetes.

Polysaccharides, a type of carbohydrate that includes starch and cellulose, may benefit people with diabetes because they help retard absorption of glucose.

The researchers found that of the three teas, the polysaccharides in black tea had the most glucose-inhibiting properties. The black tea polysaccharides also showed the highest scavenging effect on free radicals, which are involved in the onset of diseases such as cancer and rheumatoid arthritis.

Sources:
Science Daily July 28, 2009
Institute of Food Technologists July 28, 2009

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Vitamins Might Undo Your Exercise Efforts

New research suggests taking vitamins after exercise may undo some of the beneficial effects of your workout.

………………..

Some advocate taking antioxidants like vitamin C and E to help protect your body from harmful chemical by-products it creates in breaking into a sweat. But some scientists now believe these “free radicals” may actually be good for you and even buffer against diabetes — which means that mopping them up with antioxidants may do more harm than good.

It is thought that antioxidant vitamins prevent oxidative stress damage to your body’s tissues by eliminating the free radicals that cause it. Oxidative stress has been implicated in several major diseases, including cancer and heart disease.

But a research team has claimed that free radicals may have a positive effect on your body by increasing its sensitivity to insulin, something that is lost in type 2 diabetes; this effect is blocked by antioxidant vitamins.

Reacting to the study, antioxidant expert Dr. Alexander Schauss said that the title of the study (Antioxidants prevent health-promoting effects of physical exercise in humans) was misleading. He said:

“The primary objective of this study was to study the effect of a 4-week intensive 5-days a week exercise program on insulin sensitivity. Yet the title of the paper leads one to believe otherwise.

This is a small gender-biased study of 40 male subjects, 25 to 35 years of age. When I read through the study for the first time I had to wonder, how could the authors have come up with such a title for their paper?”

In addition to questioning the study design, particularly with respect to both trained and untrained people being assigned to an intensive exercise program, Dr. Schauss also questioned the conclusions drawn from the data. Dr. Schauss said:

“Skeletal muscle biopsies were obtained from the right vastus lateralis muscle of study subjects. But some of the data is missing for a number of subjects, and reported as such by the authors.”

Dr. Schauss also noted that the authors presented no evidence of adverse effects by any of the individuals from vitamin C and E supplementation.

Sources:

BBC News May 11, 2009

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States May 11, 2009

NutraIngredients.com May 12, 2009

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Chemists Shed Light On Health Benefits Of Garlic

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It has long been believed that the organic compound allicin, which gives garlic its characteristic aroma and flavor, acts as the world’s most powerful antioxidant. But until now it hasn’t been clear how allicin works, or how it compares to more common antioxidants such as vitamin E and coenzyme Q10.

.Garlic. Chemists have discovered the reason why garlic is so good for us. (Credit: iStockphoto/Jorge Farres Sanchez)

.A research team investigated whether allicin could be as effective as claimed. Through experiments with synthetically produced allicin, they found that sulfenic acid produced when the compound decomposes rapidly reacts with dangerous free radicals.

Researchers said that the reaction between the sulfenic acid and radicals is as fast as it can get, limited only by the time it takes for the two molecules to come into contact. No other compound has been observed to react as an antioxidant so quickly.

Sources:
Science Daily January 31, 2009

Angewandte Chemie International Edition December 22, 2008, Volume 48 Issue 1, Pages 157-160

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Could Drinking Heavy Atoms Lengthen Your Life?

In a back room of New Scientist‘s offices in London, I sit down at a table with the Russian biochemist Mikhail Shchepinov. In front of us are two teaspoons and a brown glass bottle. Shchepinov opens the bottle, pours out a teaspoon of clear liquid and drinks it down. He smiles. It’s my turn.

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A sip a day of heavy water could reduce damage to ageing tissue that is caused by oxygen free radicals (Image: John Sann/Stone/Getty)
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I put a spoonful of the liquid in my mouth and swallow. It tastes slightly sweet, which is a surprise. I was expecting it to be exactly like water since that, in fact, is what it is – heavy water to be precise, chemical formula D2O. The D stands for deuterium, an isotope of hydrogen with an atomic mass of 2 instead of 1. Deuterium is what puts the heavy in heavy water. An ice cube made out of it would sink in normal water.

My sip of heavy water is the culmination of a long journey trying to get to the bottom of a remarkable claim that Shchepinov first made around 18 months ago. He believes he has discovered an elixir of youth, a way to drink (or more likely eat) your way to a longer life.

Many anti-aging medications are based on supplementing your body’s own defenses with antioxidant compounds such as vitamin C and beta-carotene, though there is scant evidence that this does any good.

Shchepinov realized there was another way to defeat free radicals. While he was familiarizing himself with research on aging, his day job involved a well-established – if slightly obscure – bit of chemistry called the isotope effect. On Christmas day 2006, it dawned on him that putting the two together could lead to a new way of postponing the ravages of time.

The basic concept of the isotope effect is that the presence of heavy isotopes in a molecule can slow down its chemical reactions.

All of this is conventional chemistry: the isotope effect was discovered back in the 1930s and its mechanism explained in the 1940s. The effect has a long pedigree as a research tool in basic chemistry for probing the mechanisms of complex reactions.

Shchepinov, however, is the first researcher to link the effect with aging. It dawned on him that if aging is caused by free radicals trashing covalent bonds, and if those same bonds can be strengthened using the isotope effect, why not use it to make vulnerable biomolecules more resistant to attack? All you would have to do is judiciously place deuterium or carbon-13 in the bonds that are most vulnerable to attack, and chemistry should take care of the rest.

Sources:
*New Scientist November 27, 2008
*Rejuvenation Research March 1, 2007; 10(1): 47-60

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