Sunday, July 11, 2010

ORAC Score Ratings and Antioxidants - Definitions and Explanations

"ORAC," an acronym for oxygen radical absorbance capacity, has become something of a buzz word in the world of health food and nutritional supplements. Many products are using high ORAC scores as bragging rights or proof of product superiority. The simple explanation is that a higher number equates to more antioxidant power, but what exactly does this mean? How are the numbers determined, and what does it do for your body? Let us examine all of these issues.

Every human body contains atoms (or groups of atoms) called free radicals. In extremely simplified terms, these are molecules that are missing an electron. They "attack" nearby molecules in order to steal an electron, or bond with them to balance themselves out. The process of transferring one electron to another is called "oxidation." In many cases, this can damage or even destroy cells important cells. Like most things that occur in the body, free radicals have positive uses in the right context. In white blood cells and other pathogens, they can help neutralize bacteria. The problems occur when the buildup of unnecessary free radicals begins, attacking vital cells, DNA, and even contributing to clogged arteries in our bodies.

Oxidation and free radicals are created in the body from a variety of sources: alcohol, cigarettes, pesticides, and various other toxins that occur in our environment. Toxic metals such as lead, which are present in most of us now through water supplies and other sources, greatly increase the quantity and potency of free radicals. It is important to realize however, that even when living a healthy lifestyle, the buildup of free radicals occurs naturally through the process of mitochondria metabolizing oxygen in our bodies. Needless to say, anyone living in the modern world will be dealing with free radicals, and can use some assistance in keeping them in check. This is where antioxidants come in.

Chances are you have heard a lot of talk about antioxidants. As the name suggests, these are molecules that help prevent and reverse the oxidation process, and are able to destroy or neutralize the free radicals. Antioxidants occur naturally in a number of fruits, vegetables, herbs and seeds, and there is now a standardized test from the U.S Department of Agriculture to determine the antioxidant power of any source. Hailing from the National Institute on Aging in Baltimore, Maryland, physician and chemist Dr. Guohua Cao is responsible for developing this test.

Dr. Cao's test involves placing the product (food, synthetic vitamin, juice, etc.) in a test tube containing free radicals. A score is given that directly corresponds to how quickly and thoroughly the radicals are either neutralized or destroyed. This is the ORAC rating, and the term oxygen radical absorbance capacity should make more sense now. This test and score sounds relatively cut and dry, but there is more to the story when it comes to evaluating the actual antioxidant properties of a product or food you are considering.

Companies will use an ORAC score based on dry weight, wet weight, or units per serving of their product. Naturally, many will choose whatever appears to be a higher number. One product may appear to have a higher score than another, so it is important to make sure that when comparing two or more products, the scores are determined under the same parameters.

Dr. Cao, as well as Dr. Ronald Prior suggest a daily ORAC value of three to five thousand units per day in order to see any positive benefits. The average American diet fails to reach this amount by over fifteen-hundred units. Published studies suggest that oxidation can cause legitimate damage to lipids, proteins, and DNA, which is a contributing factor in a variety of serious diseases. The five thousand ORAC united per day mark, according to Cao and Prior's research, can be beneficial in fighting these as well as many other age-related illnesses.

Sig: For a safe, healthy product that boasts one of the highest natural ORAC scores while containing no sugars, artificial flavors or chemicals, visit here

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