Oxidation, or free-radical damage, is the main force behind what we call aging. It wrinkles our skin, clouds our vision and may even clog our arteries. It can also lead to diseases such as arthritis, cataracts, Alzheimer’s, heart disease and cancer.

Free radicals get to us through air pollution, food chemicals, toxins in water, sunlight — even the act of breathing creates free radicals! Although it’s impossible to escape the effects of free radicals on our bodies, it is possible to lessen the damage by countering them with antioxidants and other anti-aging nutrients.

Coenzyme Q-10 (CoQ10): This vitamin-like substance is considered an anti-aging nutrient because it can slow down the “wear and tear” of tissue and organs and the weakening of immune function. One study showed that mice given CoQ10 entered their senior years with a better general appearance, including more energy and healthier fur than their counterparts. Hundreds of studies show that CoQ10 can help prevent and improve heart disease. Still other research has focused on CoQ10’s positive effects on age-related disorders like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, which have been linked to free-radical damage.

CoQ10 also boosts immune function. Older people often have only a third of the antibodies found in young, healthy people, putting them at greater risk for infections and more serious health disorders. Giving the elderly CoQ10 can more than double the production of antibodies and restore immune function to about 80% of its original strength.

Vitamin C: Another prime anti-aging supplement, vitamin C helps form collagen, the main protein in connective tissue (skin, cartilage, tendons). It is also the body’s first line of antioxidant protection and is critical to immune function. Thousands of scientific studies show that vitamin C reduces cancer rates, improves immunity, protects against pollution, reduces cataract risk and increases life expectancy. Vitamin C also “regenerates” other important antioxidants in the body, including beta-carotene and vitamin E.

Omega-3s: While omega-3 fatty acids aren’t antioxidants as such, they do have important anti-aging properties. They improve the integrity of our cell membranes to allow proper functioning of countless bodily processes. Omega-3s, found in fish and flax oils, also mediate immune response; help prevent high cholesterol, high blood pressure and other heart diseases; benefit arthritis; help prevent age-related neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s; and more. If we think of antioxidants as the “rust protection” for the aging body, then omega-3s are the “premium grade oils” that keep everything running smoothly!

Sources: The Super Antioxidants by J Balch, Evans:1998; Encyclopedia of Nutritional Supplements by M Murray, Prima:1996; Earl Mindell’s Supplement Bible by E Mindell, Fireside:1998