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Antioxidants, and the immune system.

The proliferation of T and B cells, natural killer cells, and lymphokine activated killer cells that are required to mount an effective defence against pathogens and tumour cells appear to be inhibited markedly with age and upon exposure to oxidants (Ames et al, 1993). These effects can, in part, be counteracted in elderly individuals by dietary antioxidant supplementation. Conditions such as chronic inflammatory diseases could result in compromised lymphocyte function. The age associated decrease in cell mediated immunity may be due to a decreased level of certain small molecule antioxidants and antioxidant enzymes that accompany the ageing process.

Some of the factors that has been linked to increased stress and susceptibility to catching colds include:

  • old age
  • cigarette smoking
  • mental stress
  • poor nutrition
  • lack of sleep
  • overtraining

These factors have all been associated with impaired immune function and increased risk of infection.

Beta-carotene is a powerful antioxidant and immune system booster, working directly at the cellular level to combat free radicals that damage cells and promote disease.

Athletes, Stress and Immune Function

Athletes, scuba divers, spearfishermen and the like dread the thought of catching a cold or the 'flu (influenza). Infections can interfere with training, impair performance and even prevent an athlete from competing. Scuba diving is almost impossible

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with a cold due to blocked sinuses. Athletes with heavy training programmes are more susceptible than normal to infection. Sore throats and flu-like symptoms are more common in athletes than in the general population. The immune system protects the body against infection and is weakened by stress. The effects of prolonged exercise on the immune system appear to be  similar to other forms of stress that are known to suppress immunity such as  surgical trauma, physical and thermal injury, sepsis and extreme psychological  distress.  Nutrition can have an important influence on immune function. There are dietary components that are capable of boosting immune function. Vitamins E and C are both good immunity boosting antioxidants.

 Good evidence is becoming available to support the belief that moderate, regular exercise may help keep your immune system in good shape. During moderate exercise, several positive changes occur in the immune system. Various immune cells circulate through the body more quickly, and are better able to kill bacteria and viruses. However, prolonged, high intensity endurance exercise can make athletes susceptible to illness for up to 72 hours! This prolonged, intensive exercise is associated with altered immune function and an increased risk of upper respiratory tract infections.

Strenuous physical exercise induces oxidative stress. There may be a number of physiological sources of this oxidative stress (including mitochondrial superoxide production, ischaemia-reperfusion mechanisms and auto-oxidation of catecholamines). Severe or prolonged exercise (overtraining) can overwhelm antioxidant defences. Vitamins E and C and thiol antioxidants are interlinked in an antioxidant network with antioxidant enzymes.

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Evidence for oxidative stress and damage during exercise comes from direct measurement of free radicals, from measurement of damage to lipids and DNA, and from measurement of antioxidant redox status, especially glutathione (Packer, 1997). Bolstering antioxidant defences may ameliorate exercise-induced damage, so the benefits of antioxidants in the diet may be for the long term rather than the short term.

There are numerous antioxidants on the market due to the variety of natural antioxidants.

Common Warning Signs of Overtraining

All of the below symptoms on their own can have other causes! Overtraining is a  state of prolonged fatigue and is caused by excessive training. In chronically overtrained  athletes a decline of as much as 5-15% in performance is  not uncommon. One study showed a drop of 11-15% in training  pace and a 43-71% drop in training distance. This combined with the below symptoms is likely evidence of the stress of overtraining.

  • Mild leg soreness, general achiness (on its own, also a symptom of a good workout).
  • Pain in muscles & joints (may have other causes such as strain or sprain).
  • Washed-out feeling, tired, drained, lack of energy (also havs other causes).
  • Sudden drop in ability to run normal distance or times - a drop in your average performance.
  • Insomnia.
  • Headaches.
  • Inability to relax, twitchy, fidgety.
  • Insatiable thirst, dehydration.
  • Lowered resistance to common illnesses; colds, sore throat, etc.

Training  too much, too hard, or too quickly does not lead to long-term  performance gains. Such training is likely to cause to injury, fatigue and illness. Overtraining is a common  problem in endurance athletes, particularly athletes training  for ultra-distance races

Antioxidants to counter overtraining stress symptoms

People who have high levels of oxidative stress due to chronic health problems might benefit from taking supplements of vitamin E in doses higher than the currently recommended daily intake (Mastaloudis et al, 2004). The optimal intake for people who have depressed levels of micronutrients due to athletic exertion, heart disease, or simple lack of physical activity, can be higher than the recommended daily allowance (RDA) (15 mg per day).

Ultramarathon runners who used supplements of vitamins C and E for six weeks prior to their races totally prevented the increase in lipid oxidation commonly associated with extreme exercise. A similar type of metabolic damage observed in these runners is found after heart attacks, strokes, surgery and other traumas.

Mastaloudis et al (2004) confirm that vitamin E supplementation as an antioxidant can help prevent damaging lipid oxidation and some of the health concerns associated with it. In their trial, 22 runners who performed in a 50km ‘ultramarathon’. Half of the runners were given daily supplements of 1,000 milligrams vitamin C and 300 international units of vitamin E for six weeks prior to the race, while the other half ate only their normal, healthy diet.

In the control group there was a significant increases in lipid peroxidation following the race. The biomarkers tested were at levels that are often seen after someone has had a heart attack, while the runners taking vitamins C and E had comparatively normal levels. This study showed that supplementation with antioxidant vitamins E and C could help prevent the significant levels of lipid oxidation that are associated with intense exercise. People with a vitamin E intake around the amount recommended by US health authorities did not gain those protective antioxidant benefits. Oxidative stress and higher levels of lipid oxidation are seen in a wide range of health problems, ranging from diabetes to heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer's disease, smoking and even obesity (Mastaloudis et al, 2004).This study does suggest that people with high levels of oxidative stress and lipid oxidation caused by chronic health problems may benefit from supplements of vitamin E that are higher than the current RDA for this vitamin.

Different antioxidants have fairly specific jobs. Vitamin E seemed to play no role in preventing DNA damage, muscle fatigue, muscle damage or improved performance, but it is effective at preventing lipid oxidation and the health concerns associated with that. The conclusion is that marathon runners should absolutely be taking supplements of vitamin E. Markers of inflammation were increased dramatically in response to the run regardless of treatment group. Thus, Vitamin E supplementation prevented endurance exercise-induced lipid peroxidation but had no effect on inflammatory markers.

AIM Proancynol 2000®

The immune system is the army that protects us from invaders. It extends throughout all body systems and is linked to our brain and affected by our state of mind. It protects us from bacteria, viruses, and cancer cells. Its basic strategy is simple: recognise the enemy and attack. The immune system is perhaps the "most important" body system when considering living well and maintaining good health. A healthy immune system can meet all challenges.

AIM Proancynol 2000® combines the proven antioxidants found in green tea and grape seed extracts with powerful antioxidant "newcomers" N-acetylcystiene and alpha-lipoic acid, as well as rosemary extract, selenium, and lycopene.

AIM Just Carrots®

Beta carotene  is a potent antioxidant. AIM Just Carrots® has one of the  highest sources of natural beta carotene - up to 700 percent of the  U.S. government's Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA). Drinking one  glass of AIM Just Carrots® provides you with 35,000 International  Units of beta carotene.

AIM BarleyLife®

AIM BarleyLife® is as effective as the Chinese wolfberries as an antioxidant, with an ORAC value of 25,500! AIM BarleyLife® is bursting with nutrition. It contains 2 times the beta carotene found in an equivalent weight of raw carrots and about 25 times that found in an equivalent weight of raw broccoli. Beta carotene is an important antioxidant known to protect cells.


Always consult your doctor. This site is for information purposes and does not prescribe products. Confirm all details with a specialist (see disclaimer).

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