Spectra Total ORAC Blend Supplement: Antioxidants, Free Radicals, and Aging Endurance Athletes

what does spectra do

No, free radicals aren’t deranged hippies from the 70s, and no, the name Spectra Total ORAC blend didn’t come from Star Trek.

That being said, the battle that takes place in your body between antioxidants and free radicals can seem like sci-fi. And while more research is needed on the complex interaction between free radicals and the foods we eat, what we do know about free radicals and how they affect our health is fascinating.

According to a 2002 study, “Epidemiological data suggest that antioxidants may have a beneficial effect on many age-related diseases: atherosclerosis, cancer, some neurodegenerative and ocular diseases.” (Bonnefoy, et al.)

Free radicals may even accelerate—or be responsible for—aging. (Nemzer, et al.)

Free radicals have been linked to:

  • Alzheimer’s
  • Dementia
  • Autoimmune disease
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Cancer
  • Cataracts
  • Winkles
  • Grey hair
  • Hair loss
  • Diabetes
  • Huntington’s
  • Parkinson’s

Increased free radicals from sources such as pollution, toxic chemicals, sun exposure, and even foods high in saturated fat may help explain how we age. (Lobo, et al.)

What is a free radical, and why is it harmful?

Free radicals are unstable atoms.

There are a few different kinds of molecules that produce free radicals, but the one we’ll talk about here involves oxygen.

As you may recall from high school bio, oxygen likes to bond with itself. Let’s look at O2. O2 has two oxygen atoms sharing four electrons and is often depicted as a biological dumbbell. 

If that molecule splits, either from normal metabolic processes or environmental factors (like a nasty sunburn), one of the atoms will be left desperately seeking another electron.

The process of splitting oxygen atoms is called oxidative stress, and the unpaired electrons produced are called free radicals.

Just like that desperate dude hitting on everyone at the bar, desperate oxygen will try to bond to all sorts of molecules. Free radicals can also strip electrons from other molecules, changing their chemical structure.

Free radicals occur under normal conditions, and may even play a role in our health. However, when levels are high enough, they can cause a chain reaction of damage.

This is bad news for your body.

Free radicals can mess with the delicate code written on your DNA, which changes the way it replicates and manufactures proteins. It can even alter a cell membrane.

When a free radical interacts with what is commonly called “bad cholesterol,” it makes the molecule more likely to clog artery walls. (Harvard)

What is an antioxidant?

what is an anti-oxidant

Our bodies have a strategy for combating free radicals: antioxidants.

By now, many of us have an idea of what an antioxidant is (or we at least know that they are an excuse to eat lots of blueberries).

Antioxidants generously donate an electron to free radicals, making them no longer reactive.

What is ORAC?

Scientists measure substances that are rich in antioxidants using an oxygen radical absorbance capacity scale, or an ORAC scale.

To figure out whether blueberries or strawberries are supreme in neutralizing free radicals, researchers find out a substance’s total antioxidant capacity (TAC).

In this example, researchers would toss in a sample of strawberry into a test tube along with some free radicals and some other molecules that are vulnerable to those free radicals.

After a certain amount of time, scientists record the amount of free radical damage incurred by the sample.

The less damage, the higher the score.

Below is a table with a few random total-ORAC results from common foods, according to the USDA:

Fresh basil

4,805

Dried basil

61,063

Extra-virgin olive oil

372

Golden apples

2,204

Raw grapefruit

1,548

Honeydew melons

253

Syrup

436

Black raspberries

19,220

Rosehip

96,150

Clove (spice)

290283

Ketchup

578

Almonds

4,454

(U.S. Department of Agriculture).

As you can see, some foods score much higher than others.

Clear winners seem to be spices like oregano, basil, turmeric, garlic, and cinnamon, and berries like elderberries, raspberries, chokeberry, bilberry, blueberry, and cherry.

Antioxidant health benefits

It’s thought that a diet high in antioxidants can improve overall health, slow the natural aging process, and lower risk of age-related diseases because “antioxidants can assist in coping [with] oxidative stress.” (Lobo, et al.)

While we don’t completely understand free radicals, it’s clear that they play some part in cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, aging, wrinkles, and vision loss.

It’s important to understand that this observation doesn’t mean that pumping yourself full of blueberries will prevent you from aging, but there does appear to be a benefit to supplementing antioxidants. 

With that in mind, let’s look at what we do know.

Research on antioxidants and free radicals

spectra total orac research

One thing is certain: more research is needed on antioxidants, free radicals, and age-related diseases. It’s also important to note that the following research has certain limitations.

For example, many of these studies had too short a duration and still, others were in populations already at risk for or suffering from the disease. Furthermore, epidemiological studies are difficult to interpret because of the many variables that occur outside the lab.

For example, observational studies on the typical eating habits, lifestyles, and health histories of large groups of people consistently show that people who eat more vegetables and fruits had lower risks of several diseases, including cardiovascular disease, stroke, cancer, and cataracts.

While this is promising, observational studies cannot test for a single variable. For example, people who just so happen to eat more antioxidant-rich foods might also have a healthier lifestyle overall.

For this reason, some studies are more helpful than others.

Antioxidants and Overall Health

Some of the most exciting research on antioxidants, supplements, and free radicals occurred in 2014.

Most research on antioxidants has been conducted on participants with preexisting conditions or high risk. This research is unique because it studied healthy humans.

The researchers defined optimal health with respect to free radical levels as follows:

  1. An appropriately modulated, healthy flux of free radicals and oxidants.
  2. An appropriate level of antioxidants coupled with fully functional systems to recycle these antioxidants.
  3. Robust nutritional support that helps to maintain optimal levels of supportive antioxidants and cofactors.
  4. Fully functioning enzyme systems that repair or recycle and replace damaged cellular materials, for example, DNA, RNA, enzymes, proteins, and endogenous redox molecules (glutathione, vitamin C, vitamin E etc.).

(Nemzer, et al.)

Their double-blind, placebo-controlled, single-dose study evaluated how an antioxidant-rich supplement called SPECTRA impacted those four standards above.

The study found that supplementing with SPECTRA did indeed significantly reduce free radicals.

The figure below shows the effect of SPECTRA on reactive oxygen species or ROS. ROS include O2, H2O2, and OH.

SPECTRA total orac blend research

Figure 1

Effect of SPECTRATM on cellular “total” ROS generation/metabolic activity in human participants. (Nemzer, et al.)

The next graphic shows a reduction of O2- formation after ingesting SPECTRA.

SPECTRA total orac blend research

Figure 5

Influence of SPECTRATM on “extracellular” superoxide (O2) formation in blood cells collected from human volunteers. (Nemzer, et al.)

This study suggests that supplementing with antioxidants is an effective way to maintain a healthy balance of free radicals in the body. You can find an effective dose of the supplement tested here.

Age-Related Eye Disease and Antioxidants

Antioxidants appear to reduce age-related eye diseases.

A six-year trial found that a combination of vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, and zinc protected against age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

The trial enrolled 3,640 participants aged 55-80 years.

They found that “comparison with placebo demonstrated a statistically significant odds reduction for the development of advanced AMD with antioxidants plus zinc...both zinc and antioxidants plus zinc significantly reduced the odds of developing advanced AMD in this higher-risk group.” (AREDS)

Supplementing with vitamin C and vitamin E could increase eye health.

Antioxidants and cardiovascular health

In a study of nearly 40,000 women, researchers instructed the women to take 600 IU of vitamin E or a placebo every other day for 10 years.

The study found the rates of major cardiovascular events and cancer were no lower among those taking vitamin E than they were among those taking the placebo.

However, researchers did find that supplementing with vitamin E “decreased cardiovascular mortality in healthy women.” (Lee, et al.)

More research needs to be conducted on antioxidants and cardiovascular health.

Antioxidants and cognitive function

It’s no secret that as we age, we lose some of our cognitive ability.

A 2007 study found no improvement in cognitive ability after 1 year, but saw an increase in performance for the 4052 patients that continued to supplement over the next 18 years. 

More research is needed, but this study suggests that long-term beta carotene supplementation improved cognitive function in men. (Grodstein, et al.)

Antioxidants and cancer

The research on antioxidants and their ability to fight cancer is thin, but the clinical trials we do have are conflicting.

Some research suggests that for both healthy individuals and those at high-risk for various cancers, supplementing with antioxidants will likely have no effect.

(National Cancer Institute) (Davis, et al.) (Bouayed, et al) (Rautalahti, et al.) (Virtamo, et al.) (Albanes, et al.) (Wright, et al) (Omenn, et al.) (Goodman, et al.) (Lee, et al.) (Hercberg, et al.)

However, for chronic smokers with a high risk of lung disease, supplementing with the popular antioxidant carotene may increase the risk of lung cancer.

(Neuhouser, et al.) (Hennekens, et al.) (Lee, et al.)

However, there is research that suggests taking antioxidants decreases rate of cancer among men.

The researchers conclude, “After 7.5 years, low-dose antioxidant supplementation lowered total cancer incidence and all-cause mortality in men but not in women.

Supplementation may be effective in men only because of their lower baseline status of certain antioxidants, especially of beta carotene.” (Hercberg, et al)

A 1993 trial studied the efficacy of selenium (an antioxidant). Among the 1312 participants, research showed “Selenium supplementation reduced total (HR = 0.75, 95% CI = 0.58–0.97) and prostate (HR = 0.48, 95% CI = 0.28–0.80) cancer incidence but was not significantly associated with lung (HR = 0.74, 95% CI = 0.44–1.24) and colorectal (HR = 0.46, 95% CI = 0.21–1.02) cancer incidence.” (Duffield-Lillico, et al)

Why is the research mixed?

According to the NCIHH, there are a few reasons the research is so conflicting. For example,

  • As mentioned earlier, the lifestyle of the participants may influence their risk for certain diseases.
  • The chemical composition and ratios of the antioxidants used in the lab can be different than what we find in our normal diets.
  • Perhaps the idea that antioxidants are “good” and free radicals are “bad” is not complex enough to explain their relationship.
  • And of course, more research is needed, and over a longer period, to better understand the benefits of antioxidants.

(NCIHH)

The research on antioxidant health benefits is lacking. Are ORAC blends or antioxidant blends even safe?

People interested in fighting free radical-related aging should start by avoiding pollutants, toxins, too much sun exposure, and fried food.

That being said,

the answer is generally “yes.”

Antioxidant supplementation is safe for most populations at an appropriate dose.

If you’re considering taking an antioxidant supplement, you should evaluate the levels of each compound. At the very least, you should trust the manufacturer. Your supplement should have clear, easy to read labeling and should list all of the ingredients.

What dosage of antioxidants per day to reduce free radicals?

Antioxidant dosage is a little complex because of the number of antioxidants. Common antioxidants include vitamins A, C, and E, as well as lycopene, lutein, and selenium. Each has its own recommended doses.

*recommended doses from the Department of Health and Human Services

Vitamin A & beta-carotene

best sources of vitamin a

Vitamin A is sort of a misnomer in that it suggests it’s a single molecule.

Actually, vitamin A is a group of compounds that are similar in structure and therefore behave similarly in the body. These compounds include beta-carotene, a common additive in antioxidant supplements.

Vitamin A is an essential vitamin involved in the modulation of skin health, vision, the immune system, and gene transcription.

A topical application is clinically proven to reduce the appearance of wrinkles, but we’ll save that for another day. (Kafi, et al)

Endurance athletes need more vitamin A than others. To find out more about vitamin A and endurance sports, go here

Age

Male

Female

Pregnancy

Lactation

0–6 months*

400 mcg RAE

400 mcg RAE

 

 

7–12 months*

500 mcg RAE

500 mcg RAE

 

 

1–3 years

300 mcg RAE

300 mcg RAE

 

 

4–8 years

400 mcg RAE

400 mcg RAE

 

 

9–13 years

600 mcg RAE

600 mcg RAE

 

 

14–18 years

900 mcg RAE

700 mcg RAE

750 mcg RAE

1,200 mcg RAE

19–50 years

900 mcg RAE

700 mcg RAE

770 mcg RAE

1,300 mcg RAE

51+ years

900 mcg RAE

700 mcg RAE

 

 


(Institute of Medicine)

Vitamin C

Vitamin C (L-ascorbic acid) is a wonder vitamin. It’s generally considered safe at any dosage*, it’s cheap to manufacture, and of course, it’s an antioxidant.

Vitamin C is usually taken to reduce the effects of the common cold. Research on this front is incredibly promising, especially for athletes, who can cut the risk of getting a cold in half (Hemilä, et al.)

The Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) of vitamin C is 100-200mg.

*higher doses did give participants diarrhea (Johnston, et al.), and you probably shouldn’t get it intravenously (Nankivell, et al.)

Vitamin E

Vitamin E describes eight different molecules. Usually, when we talk about the health benefits of vitamin E it’s in the context of the dangers of getting too little.

However, vitamin E supplementation can support improved immune function. (Pallast, et al.)

Vitamin E also seems to be able to enhance the body’s antibody response to vaccinations. (Maydani, et al.)

Vitamin E may also be able to protect against age-related cognitive decline, but further research is needed before supplementation can be recommended specifically for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s treatment. (Petersen, et al.)

Low-dose vitamin E is safe to supplement, but it should not be mixed with coumarin-based anticoagulants like warfarin. (Institute of Medicine)

Age

Males

Females

Pregnancy

Lactation

0–6 months*

4 mg

                                    (6 IU)

4 mg

                                    (6 IU)

 

 

7–12 months*

5 mg

                                    (7.5 IU)

5 mg

                                    (7.5 IU)

 

 

1–3 years

6 mg

                                    (9 IU)

6 mg

                                    (9 IU)

 

 

4–8 years

7 mg

                                    (10.4 IU)

7 mg

                                    (10.4 IU)

 

 

9–13 years

11 mg

                                    (16.4 IU)

11 mg

                                    (16.4 IU)

 

 

14+ years

15 mg

                                    (22.4 IU)

15 mg

                                    (22.4 IU)

15 mg

                                    (22.4 IU)

19 mg

                                    (28.4 IU)

(Institute of Medicine)

Selenium

best sources of selenium

Selenium is an essential compound that plays a role in reproduction, thyroid hormone metabolism, DNA synthesis, and protection from oxidative damage and infection.  (Sunde)

Age

Male

Female

Pregnancy

Lactation

Birth to 6 months

15 mcg*

15 mcg*

 

 

7–12 months

20 mcg*

20 mcg*

 

 

1–3 years

20 mcg

20 mcg

 

 

4–8 years

30 mcg

30 mcg

 

 

9–13 years

40 mcg

40 mcg

 

 

14–18 years

55 mcg

55 mcg

60 mcg

70 mcg

19–50 years

55 mcg

55 mcg

60 mcg

70 mcg

51+ years

55 mcg

55 mcg

 

 

*Adequate Intake (AI)

(Institute of Medicine)

Who should take antioxidants?

Even though scientists don’t completely understand the complicated relationship between antioxidants and free radicals, it does appear that it’s important to our health to ingest antioxidants to combat free radicals.

Healthy people may consider supplementing antioxidants to decrease their risk for age-related diseases.

Those considering taking antioxidants to help with cancer treatment or prevention should consult their medical professional.

Anyone taking blood thinners should consult their medical professional before supplementing vitamin E.

Where can I find a safe, clinically proven ORAC blend?

You can have a diet rich in antioxidants by eating lots of fruits and veggies.

Generally, the more colorful, the better. Dark chocolate, blueberries, beans, pecans, strawberries, spinach, plums, and raisins are just a few foods that score high on the ORAC scale.

But let’s be real. Not every meal is going to be a well-balanced plate with the colors of the rainbow. You can supplement your diet with an ORAC blend from a manufacturer you trust.



VitaminElite derives its SPECTRA Total ORAC blend from safe sources you can pronounce, like basil, cinnamon, blueberries, spinach, and carrot, to name a few. You can view the full ingredient list, along with a description and dosage of those ingredients, here.  

References:

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