Monday, March 3, 2008

Fruit Antioxidant Supplements

What's the best fruit antioxidant supplement?

It's hard to beat that old standby, acerola.

Acerola is so astonishingly rich in vitamin C that it has replaced rose hips as the leading source of natural vitamin C. While an orange provides from 500 to 4,000 parts per million (ppm) of vitamin C, acerola is packed with 16,000 to 172,000 ppm--up to 53 times more.

The taste of fresh acerola can be described as a kind of tropical raspberry. The pulp is orange, and most acerola supplements are also bright orange. Acerola also provides magnesium, naicin, pantohtenic acid, potasssium, riboflavin, and thiamine, but it does not provide the range of antioxidants found in some other exotic berries and fruits.

Tart cherries provide some antioxidants found in no other fruits. With the tongue-twisting names 2-hydroxy-3-(o-hydroxyphenyl) propanoic acid, 1-(3', 4'-dihydroxycinnamoyl)-cyclopenta-2,5-diol, and 1-(3', 4'-dihydroxycinnamoyl)-cyclopenta-2,3-diol, these antioxidants may explain why tart cherries seem to act as a "metabolic booster" while at the same time lowering blood sugars that are too high. Tart cherries are also a natural source of melatonin.

And, of course, you can't go to the grocery or the health food store without noticing supplements made from pomegranate (Punica granatum), goji berries (Lycium barbarum; also known as wolfberry), mangosteen (Garcinia mangostana), the Brazilian açaí berry (Euterpe oleraceae), and the Chilean maqui berry (Aristotelia chilensis).

Some of the most recent laboratory research from China finds that goji berries (wolfberries) contain compounds that bind stress hormones that cause anxiety and weight gain. Where you can run into trouble with goji berries is if you take a prescription blood thinner. If you take clopidogrel (Plavix), dalteparin (Fragmin), enoxaparin (Lovenox), heparin, ticlopidine (Ticlid) and warfarin (Coumadin)or a similar anticoagulant, don't take goji berry juice or use goji berry supplements.

Recent research has found that an extract of the Brazilian açaí berry has eight times the oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC, a measure antioxidant potency) as pomegranate, but a product made from Indian gooseberry (Phyllanthus emblica) has twice the ORAC of açaí.

But no matter which fruit antioxidant supplement you choose, the time you take determines how well it works for you. When researchers at the University of New Mexico tested the power of antioxidants to counter the arterial inflammation induced by eating a Big Mac, they found that getting your antioxidants (1) just before breakfast and (2) just before supper had the greatest benefits on reducing inflammation and free radical load.

Citations:

Carroll MF, Schade DS. Timing of antioxidant vitamin ingestion alters postprandial proatherogenic serum markers. Circulation. 2003 Jul 8;108(1):24-31. Epub 2003 Jun 23.

Saito K, Kohno M, Yoshizaki F, Niwano Y. Extensive Screening for Edible Herbal Extracts with Potent Scavenging Activity against Superoxide Anions. 1: Plant Foods Hum Nutr. 2008 Jan 31 [Epub ahead of print].

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