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A recent study looked at 2 specific antioxidant levels in a variety of mushroom species. Mushrooms are an excellent source of nutrients, such as riboflavin and other B vitamins, selenium, copper, potassium, dietary fiber, as well as high levels of antioxidants ergothioneine (ERGO) and glutathione (GSH). The study found the highest levels of these antioxidants in yellow oyster and porcini mushrooms.

Ergothioneine (ERGO), which is found throughout the human body, is a critical antioxidant that acts with other antioxidants to protect against oxidative stress in the mitochondria (in our cells). What foods are good sources of ERGO? Mushrooms have the highest levels, but other foods with high ERGO content include red beans, black beans, kidney beans, oat bran, liver, and king crab.

Glutathione (GSH) is produced by the body and found in every cell - thus the major antioxidant within cells. It also helps the liver remove chemicals (detoxification) of a wide range of toxins, drugs, pollutants, and carcinogens, and maintenance of immune functioning. Low GSH levels are associated with increased risks for cancer, cardiovascular diseases, arthritis and diabetes. So you want to maintain optimal tissue levels of GSH (through dietary intake) because it is so critical for maintaining health. What foods are good sources of GSH? Mushrooms, and many fresh (raw) fruits and vegetables, including asparagus, avocados, potatoes, spinach, squash, tomatoes. Also fresh, uncooked meats and dairy products (raw milk) and eggs. From Science Daily:

Mushrooms are full of antioxidants that may have antiaging potential

Mushrooms may contain unusually high amounts of two antioxidants that some scientists suggest could help fight aging and bolster health, according to a team of Penn State researchers. In a study, researchers found that mushrooms have high amounts of the ergothioneine and glutathione, both important antioxidants, said Robert Beelman, professor emeritus of food science and director of the Penn State Center for Plant and Mushroom Products for Health. He added that the researchers also found that the amounts the two compounds varied greatly between mushroom species.

Beelman said that when the body uses food to produce energy, it also causes oxidative stress because some free radicals are produced. Free radicals are oxygen atoms with unpaired electrons that cause damage to cells, proteins and even DNA as these highly reactive atoms travel through the body seeking to pair up with other electrons. Replenishing antioxidants in the body, then, may help protect against this oxidative stress.

According to the researchers, who report their findings in a recent issue of Food Chemistry, the amounts of ergothioneine and glutathione in mushrooms vary by species with the porcini species, a wild variety, containing the highest amount of the two compounds among the 13 species tested. The more common mushroom types, like the white button, had less of the antioxidants, but had higher amounts than most other foods, Beelman said....Mushrooms that are high in glutathione are also high in ergothioneine, for example. Cooking mushrooms does not seem to significantly affect the compounds, Beelman said.

"It's preliminary, but you can see that countries that have more ergothioneine in their diets, countries like France and Italy, also have lower incidents of neurodegenerative diseases, while people in countries like the United States, which has low amounts of ergothioneine in the diet, have a higher probability of diseases like Parkinson's Disease and Alzheimer's," said Beelman. "Now, whether that's just a correlation or causative, we don't know." [Original study.]

 It seems that a lot has been written about the health benefits of some berries, such as blueberries, while other berries have been neglected. This study focused on red raspberries, black raspberries, and blackberries. While the study was done in Poland, it was pointed out that these berries are also commonly grown in the USA. Red raspberry, black raspberry, and blackberry fruits are abundant in dietary phytochemicals such as flavonols, phenolic acids, ellagitannins, vitamins C and E, folic acid, and β-sitosterol. Many of these bioactive compounds exhibit antioxidant activity. Anthocyanins and other phenolic compounds such as ellagitannins and ellagic acid, which distinguish raspberry from other berries, occur in high levels, and are mainly responsible for their broad beneficial health properties (including anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and antiviral activities).

For these reasons, the researchers said that "raspberry and blackberry fruits can be regarded as natural functional foods". Another term for functional foods is nutraceutical, which is a food containing health-giving additives and having medicinal benefit. From Science Daily:

Looking for the best antioxidant fruit? Search no further than black raspberries

As far as healthy foods go, berries make the top of the list. They contain potent antioxidants, which decrease or reverse the effects of free radicals -- natural byproducts of energy production that can play havoc on the body and that are closely linked with heart disease, cancer, arthritis, stroke or respiratory diseases.

Unsurprisingly, the benefits of berries are extoled in one study after another....The research published now in Open Chemistry suggests that black raspberries grown in Central Europe show greater health benefits than their better known cousins -- raspberries or blackberries.

A group of researchers led by Anna Małgorzata Kostecka-Gugała measured the content of phenolics and anthocyanins in black raspberries, red raspberries and blackberries, assessing their antioxidant potential and health benefits. They were able to confirm that the antioxidant activity of natural products correlates directly with their health promoting properties.

It turns out that the amount of antioxidants in black raspberries was three times higher than the other fruits under investigation. Remarkably, the number was even higher for phenolics or the amount of anthocyanines -- with black raspberries topping their humble cousins by over 1000%. But most interestingly, black raspberries seem to be characterized by a higher content of secondary metabolites, which have been proved beneficial for human health.

This study, even though done on mice, reinforces previous research that taking antioxidant supplements are linked to higher rates of cancer or the spread of cancer (metastases). Here it is linked to the spread of metastatic skin cancer. The researchers say that the overall conclusion from the various studies is that antioxidants protect healthy cells from free radicals that can turn them into malignancies, but may also protect a tumor once it has developed. They also suggest that suntan lotions and skin lotions containing vitamin E and beta-carotene may have the same negative effect and are now studying that possibility. However, note that many, many studies find that eating foods does NOT find negative effects, but only beneficial ones for health. The October 5, 2015 post also discussed why supplements containing large doses of antioxidants (such as beta-carotene) don't work, and can even cause harm. Bottom line: Eat fruits and vegetables daily for numerous health benefits, but skip the antioxidant supplements. From Science Daily:

Antioxidants cause malignant melanoma to metastasize faster

Antioxidants can double the rate of melanoma metastasis in mice, new research shows. The results reinforce previous findings that antioxidants hasten the progression of lung cancer. People with cancer or an elevated risk of developing the disease should avoid nutritional supplements that contain antioxidants, the researchers say.

Researchers at Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, demonstrated in January 2014 that antioxidants hastened and aggravated the progression of lung cancer. Mice that were given antioxidants developed additional and more aggressive tumors. Experiments on human lung cancer cells confirmed the results. Given well-established evidence that free radicals can cause cancer, the research community had simply assumed that antioxidants, which destroy them, provide protection against the disease. Found in many nutritional supplements, antioxidants are widely marketed as a means of preventing cancer. Because the lung cancer studies called the collective wisdom into question, they attracted a great deal of attention.

The follow-up studies at Sahlgrenska Academy have now found that antioxidants double the rate of metastasis in malignant melanoma, the most perilous type of skin cancer. Science Translational Medicine published the findings on October 7. "As opposed to the lung cancer studies, the primary melanoma tumor was not affected," Professor Bergö says. "But the antioxidant boosted the ability of the tumor cells to metastasize, an even more serious problem because metastasis is the cause of death in the case of melanoma. The primary tumor is not dangerous per se and is usually removed."

Experiments on cell cultures from patients with malignant melanoma confirmed the new results. "We have demonstrated that antioxidants promote the progression of cancer in at least two different ways," Professor Bergö says. The overall conclusion from the various studies is that antioxidants protect healthy cells from free radicals that can turn them into malignancies but may also protect a tumor once it has developed.

Avoid supplements: Taking nutritional supplements containing antioxidants may unintentionally hasten the progression of a small tumor or premalignant lesion, neither of which is possible to detect. "Previous research at Sahlgrenska Academy has indicated that cancer patients are particularly prone to take supplements containing antioxidants," Dr. Bergö says. Our current research combined with information from large clinical trials with antioxidants suggests that people who have been recently diagnosed with cancer should avoid such supplements."

The role of antioxidants is particularly relevant in the case of melanoma, not only because melanoma cells are known to be sensitive to free radicals but because the cells can be exposed to antioxidants by non-dietary means as well. "Skin and suntan lotions sometimes contain beta carotene or vitamin E, both of which could potentially affect malignant melanoma cells in the same way as antioxidants in nutritional supplements," Professor Bergö says. How antioxidants in lotions affect the course of malignant melanoma is currently being explored. "We are testing whether antioxidants applied directly to malignant melanoma cells in mice hasten the progression of cancer in the same way as their dietary counterparts," Professor Bergö says. 

Great news for coffee lovers, especially for those drinking 3 to 5 cups daily! From Medical Daily:

Drinking Coffee Can Lower Alzheimer's Risk By 20%, All It Takes Is 3 Cups A Day

As if you weren’t already drinking a lot of coffee, a review of several studies has found drinking three to five cups a day could reduce risk of Alzheimer’s disease by 20 percent.

The research was presented at the 2014 Alzheimer Europe Annual Congress, and found that people who drank coffee regularly — all you lifers out there — were less likely to develop the debilitating disease. Alzheimer’s, perhaps the worst type of dementia, is a progressive disease that works slowly, first making it difficult to remember newly learned things, and later on making it difficult to remember early memories and family member’s faces, while also causing hallucinations. The biggest risk factor for the disease is being over 65 years old.

Roughly 83 percent of American adults drink coffee, according to the National Coffee Association. What many of these Americans don’t know, however, is that inside that cup of Joe is a wealth of polyphenols, which you probably know as antioxidants. These antioxidants — researchers said they’re the same ones found in the Mediterranean diet — prevent the formation of a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease known as amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles, the study found. They also reduce inflammation and deterioration of brain cells, particularly in the areas of the brain (the hippocampus and cortex) responsible for memory.

Along with prevention of Alzheimer’s, coffee has been linked to a reduced risk of liver cancer and other liver conditions, a lower risk of type 2 diabetes; it prevents eye damage and Parkinson’s disease; and even boosts endurance. But even then, drinking too much isn’t good, either. As the researchers noted, three to five cups is optimal; anything over that, and you might find yourself with some problems.

Basically, this research says that the levels of antioxidants in citrus fruits and juices is about 10 times higher than currently calculated. Currently we just look at what is absorbed from citrus fruits in the small intestine, but neglect what arrives at the large intestine, including the fiber, and what the intestinal microbes extract. Those microbes are amazing! From Science Daily:

Antioxidant capacity of orange juice is multiplied tenfold

The antioxidant activity of citrus juices and other foods is undervalued, experts say. A new technique for measuring this property generates values that are ten times higher than those indicated by current analysis methods. The results suggest that tables on the antioxidant capacities of food products that dieticians and health authorities use must be revised. Orange juice and juices from other citrus fruits are considered healthy due to their high content of antioxidants, which help to reduce harmful free radicals in our body, but a new investigation shows that their benefits are greater than previously thought.

In order to study these compounds in the laboratory, techniques that simulate the digestion of food in the digestive tract are used, which analyse only the antioxidant capacities of those substances that can potentially be absorbed in the small intestine: the liquid fraction of what we eat.

"The problem is that the antioxidant activity of the solid fraction (the fibre) isn't measured, as it's assumed that it isn't beneficial. However, this insoluble fraction arrives at the large intestine and the intestinal microbiota can also ferment it and extract even more antioxidant substances, which we can assess with our new methodology," José Ángel Rufián Henares, professor at the University of Granada, explains.

His team has developed a technique called 'global antioxidant response' (GAR), which includes an in vitro simulation of the gastrointestinal digestion that occurs in our body, whilst taking into account the 'forgotten' antioxidant capacity of the solid fraction.

Upon applying the technique to commercial and natural orange, mandarin, lemon and grapefruit juices, it has been proved that their values greatly increase. For example, in the case of orange juice, the value ranges from 2.3 mmol Trolox/L (units for the antioxidant capacity) registered with a traditional technique to 23 mmol Trolox/L with the new GAR method.

"The antioxidant activity is, on average, ten times higher than that which everyone thought up until now, and not just in juices, but also in any other kind of food analysed with this methodology," highlights Rufián Henares, who notes its possible application: "This technique and the results derived from it could allow dieticians and health authorities to better establish the values of the antioxidant capacity of foods."

To celebrate National Nut Day, two articles about health benefits of nuts. From Medical Daily:

National Nut Day 2014: Peanuts, Tree Nuts, And How Each Helps Your Health

For people who already eat plenty of meat and dairy products…nuts and ‘nutty’ legumes, like Brazil nuts, cashews, peanuts and walnuts, are a good nutritional alternative to meat,” Dr. Donal Murphy-Bokern, independent agri-environmental scientist and author of several studies on food system impacts, said in a statement. Heeding this advice means people can reap the benefits that come with eating nuts — Protein! Fiber! Omega-3 fatty acids! 

Nuts fall into two categories: peanuts (which are really legumes) and tree nuts. The latter includes Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamias, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios, walnuts and America’s beloved almonds. ...” And existing research generalizes that eating nuts does everything from reduce risk for a slew of diseases, maintains weight, boosts gastrointestinal and bone health, even adds years to a person’s life.

As previously mentioned, nuts are pretty much equal in terms of calories. There are, however, some nuts that have more heart-healthy nutrients and fats than others. See: pistachios. This particular tree nut is high in healthy fats called monounsaturated fats (MUFA). MUFAs are often associated with belly fat.

One study published in the journal Nutrition found that when middle-aged adults at risk for heart disease and diabetes incorporated more pistachios into their diet, they weighed less and lessened their cholesterol and blood sugar levels after just six months. And a separate study from UCLA found people who regularly ate pistachios lost an average of 10 to 12 pounds. Almonds and cashews are additional nuts high in MUFAs. 

The Harvard School of Public Health reported, “several of the largest cohort studies, including the Adventist Study, the Iowa Women’s Health Study, the Nurses’ Health Study, and the Physicians’ Health Study have shown a consistent 30 percent to 50 percent lower risk of myocardial infarction, sudden cardiac death, or cardiovascular disease associated with eating nuts several times a week.”

Though almonds tend to be associated most with heart health, it’s actually walnuts that take the number one spot. ...Health reported a 2006 Spanish study, which “suggested that walnuts were as effective as olive oil at reducing inflammation and oxidation in the arteries after eating a fatty meal.”

Folate, as defined by Harvard Medical School, is “the naturally occurring form of the vitamin that is in foods or in the blood.” It’s also the vitamin that staves off brain atrophy, or the progressive loss of brain cells over time... A study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry found folate may ward off depression, too. And which nut is super rich in folate? Unsalted peanuts...peanuts are also high in vitamin E and niacin, both of which boost brain health. Hazelnuts and almonds are known to have concentrated amounts of E, too, so either nut is bound to help your noggin.

Study done in mice, but shows benefits of walnuts to brain. From Science Daily:

Fight against Alzheimer's disease: New research on walnuts

A new animal study published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease indicates that a diet including walnuts may have a beneficial effect in reducing the risk, delaying the onset, slowing the progression of, or preventing Alzheimer's disease. Research led by Abha Chauhan, PhD, head of the Developmental Neuroscience Laboratory at the New York State Institute for Basic Research in Developmental Disabilities (IBR), found significant improvement in learning skills, memory, reducing anxiety, and motor development in mice fed a walnut-enriched diet.

The researchers suggest that the high antioxidant content of walnuts (3.7 mmol/ounce) may have been a contributing factor in protecting the mouse brain from the degeneration typically seen in Alzheimer's disease. Oxidative stress and inflammation are prominent features in this disease, which affects more than five million Americans.

Walnuts have other nutritional benefits as they contain numerous vitamins and minerals and are the only nut that contains a significant source of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) (2.5 grams per ounce), an omega-3 fatty acid with heart and brain-health benefits. The researchers also suggest that ALA may have played a role in improving the behavioral symptoms seen in the study.

The study found real differences between organic and conventionally grown foods - organic foods have lower levels of pesticides, higher levels of antioxidants, and lower levels of cadmium. From NY Times:

Study of Organic Crops Finds Fewer Pesticides and More Antioxidants

Adding fuel to the debates over the merits of organic food, a comprehensive review of earlier studies found substantially higher levels of antioxidants and lower levels of pesticides in organic fruits, vegetables and grains compared with conventionally grown produce.

However, the full findings, to be published next week in the British Journal of Nutrition, stop short of claiming that eating organic produce will lead to better health.Still, the authors note that other studies have suggested some of the antioxidants have been linked to a lower risk of cancer and other diseases.

Organic farming, by and large, eliminates the use of conventional chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Those practices offer ecological benefits like healthier soils but produce less bountiful harvests. 

In the new study, an international team of scientists did not conduct any laboratory or field work of their own. Instead, they compiled a database from 343 previously published studies and performed a statistical procedure known as a meta-analysis, which attempts to ferret robust bits of information from studies of varying designs and quality.

Over all, organic crops contained 17 percent more antioxidants than conventionally grown crops, the new study found. For some classes of antioxidants, the difference was larger. A group of compounds known as flavanones, for example, were 69 percent higher in the organic produce. (At very high quantities, as in some supplements, some antioxidants have been shown to be harmful, but the levels in organic produce were not nearly that high.)

The researchers said they analyzed the data in several different ways, and each time the general results remained robust. Charles M. Benbrook, a professor at Washington State University and another author of the paper, said this analysis improved on earlier reviews, in part because it incorporated recent new studies.

The study also found that organically produced foods, particularly grains, contain lower levels of cadmium, a toxic metal that sometimes contaminates conventional fertilizers. Dr. Benbrook said the researchers were surprised by that finding; there was no difference in other toxic metals like mercury and lead.

Overall, this is further evidence that eating natural, real foods  (in moderation) and avoiding supplements is best for health. Don't want to feed any cancers. From Science Daily:

How antioxidants can accelerate cancers, and why they don't protect against them

For decades, health-conscious people around the globe have taken antioxidant supplements and eaten foods rich in antioxidants, figuring this was one of the paths to good health and a long life.Yet clinical trials of antioxidant supplements have repeatedly dashed the hopes of consumers who take them hoping to reduce their cancer risk. Virtually all such trials have failed to show any protective effect against cancer. In fact, in several trials antioxidant supplementation has been linked with increased rates of certain cancers. In one trial, smokers taking extra beta carotene had higher, not lower, rates of lung cancer.

Two cancer researchers have proposed why antioxidant supplements might not be working to reduce cancer development, and why they may actually do more harm than good. Their insights are based on recent advances in the understanding of the system in our cells that establishes a natural balance between oxidizing and anti-oxidizing compounds. These compounds are involved in so-called redox (reduction and oxidation) reactions essential to cellular chemistry.

Drs. Tuveson and Chandel propose that taking antioxidant pills or eating vast quantities of foods rich in antioxidants may be failing to show a beneficial effect against cancer because they do not act at the critical site in cells where tumor-promoting ROS (reactive oxygen species) are produced -- at cellular energy factories called mitochondria. Rather, supplements and dietary antioxidants tend to accumulate at scattered distant sites in the cell, "leaving tumor-promoting ROS relatively unperturbed," the researchers say.

Quantities of both ROS and natural antioxidants are higher in cancer cells -- the paradoxically higher levels of antioxidants being a natural defense by cancer cells to keep their higher levels of oxidants in check, so growth can continue. In fact, say Tuveson and Chandel, therapies that raise the levels of oxidants in cells may be beneficial, whereas those that act as antioxidants may further stimulate the cancer cells. Interestingly, radiation therapy kills cancer cells by dramatically raising levels of oxidants. The same is true of chemotherapeutic drugs -- they kill tumor cells via oxidation.

A feel good article. From Science Daily:

Love is good for the heart, cardiologist says

With Valentine's Day just one day away, Vanderbilt Heart and Vascular Institute cardiologist Julie Damp, M.D., says being involved in a healthy, loving relationship is good for the heart.  "There are different theories behind why that might be," Damp said.

A recent study from Finland showed that married men and women had a significantly lower risk of both having heart attacks and dying from a heart attack compared to people who were single.

There is also a theory that people who are in loving relationships may experience neuro-hormonal changes that have positive effects on the body, including the cardiovascular system," she said, explaining that there are certain hormone levels in the body that vary depending on the level of an individual's stress and anxiety.

Giving your loved one a box of dark chocolates and a bottle of red wine won't hurt either. Studies suggest they are good for the heart, as well.

Dark chocolate contains flavonoids, which are antioxidants. Antioxidants have positive effects on many different body systems including the cardiovascular system. The high concentration of cocoa in dark chocolate appears to be what offers the flavonoid benefit.

"Dark chocolate has been shown to be associated with lower blood pressure, lower blood sugar levels and improvement in the way your blood vessels dilate and relax," Damp said.