In case you’re wondering what the fuss is about antioxidants, and what makes blueberries so vital for your continued health, allow me to quickly clue you in on some essential biochemistry.
Free radicals are unpaired electrons that are often unstable and highly reactive. They can be produced by the body, or as a result of environmental exposure such as pollutants and cigarette smoke. Reactive oxygen species (ROS) are free radicals that contain oxygen, and they’re used by the mitochondria to signal the cells to produce more energy. In essence, free radicals aren’t inherently bad. They have the potential to be perfectly benign cogs in your metabolic machinery.
However, things can go awry when ROS is allowed to get too loud, due to an imbalance in pro-oxidants and antioxidants. That’s where oxidative damage occurs, causing mutations in the mitochondria, opening you up to disease, and ultimately being a key driver of the ageing process.
The Free Radical Theory Of Ageing was conceived way back in 1956, and since has been generally accepted as scientific fact.
To lay the chain of events out more simply, excessive ROS leads to oxidative damage, causing mitochondrial mutations and cell death, depriving vital organs of their energy supply, and sending you on a steady plunge towards an early demise.
Now this is a topic I’ve covered before, and I’ve detailed a few methods for stifling the incessant momentum.
To put the steps in brief:
- Eat less
- Workout more
- Eat mitochondrial nutrients through more red meat
- Add cold showers and ketosis to build more brown fat
- Become more energy efficient through ketosis
Can Blueberries Stop You Ageing?
What I haven’t really done, is address the potential of antioxidants, the miracle compounds that have held the public in sway for decades.
- Vitamin C – Found in citrus fruits, bell peppers, tomatoes, liver
- Vitamin E – Peanuts, almonds
- Resveratrol – Grapes, wine, blueberries
- Curcumin – Turmeric
- Hydroxytyrosol – Olive oil
- Sulforaphane – Broccoli, kale, cauliflower
- Coenzyme Q10 – Beef heart, oily fish
These antioxidants all promise to promote longevity by reducing oxidative damage and balancing out pro-oxidant compounds. Most of these compounds are predominantly found in plant foods, although I do have to point out that Vitamin C is in fact present in meat. You won’t be getting scurvy unless you’re subsisting on jerky alone. Regardless, the need for antioxidants does appear to be a good case for including some plant foods, or at least supplements.
But there’s an asterisk to all of this, and that’s that the studies looking into them have proved contrasting and inconclusive.
Vitamin E, for instance, could be a pro-oxidant when brought into an environment already suffering from oxidative stress.
Resveratrol hasn’t been shown to have any effect on people without diabetes or hypertension.
There are barely any human trials to refer back to with hydroxytyrosol.
Sulforaphane raises the body’s antioxidative glutathione production by inflicting oxidative damage in the first place. So if anything, it’s depleting your antioxidative capacity by giving it more problems to fight off.
To sum it all up, there’s a lot of hype, but not much substance.
The Real Natural Alternatives
The issue here is that the antioxidative potential of exogenous compounds pale in comparison to the body’s own endogenous production.
Glutathione is your very own, completely natural antioxidant. It’s far more efficient than anything you can get from food, and none of its building blocks require plants.
- Vitamin B6
Guess what’s an easy and effective way to get them all in and sweat a little less? Steak and eggs have plenty. Ground beef in particular has the best glycine content of any muscle meat, which is just another reason why you should be making it the centrepiece of your carnivore diet.
1kg of 30% Ground Beef Provides
- Cystine – 1400mg
- Glutamate – 21099mg
- Glycine – 11869mg
- Vitamin B6 – 2.8mg – 139%
- Selenium – 135mcg – 193%
That is absolutely loaded with prime glutathione nutrition. But we can’t just stop there, because there’s a second key antioxidant that we need to cover. And it’s one that might befuddle you.
I’ve portrayed uric acid before as an unwanted byproduct of fructose metabolism that can cause oxidative stress and insulin resistance. Except now I’m going to put it up as your most potent antioxidant after glutathione.
What gives? As it happens, both can be true. Uric acid effectively performs many of the same antioxidative functions as ascorbic acid, otherwise known as Vitamin C. Issues arise when uric acid is allowed to run amok, which occurs with rapid injections of fructose. But you won’t get that in a carnivore diet, unless you for some reason decide to chuck in a ton of raw honey in the spirit of ancestralism.
Steak does contain some purines, which can then convert into uric acid. It just doesn’t get high enough to cause deleterious effects. Not without fructose. The dose truly does make the poison.
Eliminating Pro Oxidants
To circle back to one of my initial points, oxidative stress isn’t necessarily down to a lack of antioxidants. The chaos could well be caused by an overwhelming amount of pro oxidants that the body’s defence systems simply can’t deal with.
Pro oxidants can also be divided into exogenous and endogenous stressors.
- Processed foods
- Anti oxidants
- Omega 6
- Environmental pollution
- Cellular metabolism
- Drug metabolites
- Ion flux
Each of these are chronic stressors, meaning they provide a persistent source of oxidative stress without respite. Acute stressors, like exercise and cold showers, are designed to be beneficial, just as long as they aren’t taken to excess.
A well-designed training programme comes with plenty of recovery, or respite from the stressor, which then allows the body the breathing space to adapt to meet future stressors. As a result, acute stressors can build greater antioxidative capacities, and must be part of any longevity protocol.
Chronic stressors don’t give the body such liberties, and come at you incessantly. Omega 6, for instance, is a polyunsaturated fatty acid that is highly unstable and thereby prone to being oxidised. That means it can wreak havoc on the metabolism.
Omega 6 is also ubiquitous in the modern diet, typically strung out over multiple meals and snacks across the day. The problem doesn’t disappear once digestion wraps up, since these fatty acids are often absorbed into the cell wall, setting you up for more free radical damage.
Then there’s the small matter of sugar, which can increase ROS through several avenues.
1. The rapid spikes in glucose can overload the electron transport chain in the mitochondria, with the ensuing traffic jam generating excess ROS.
2. Glucose also converts to harmful advanced glycation end-products, which oxidises much like your bread does when you leave it too long in the toaster.
3. Spikes in blood sugar triggers the excitatory neurotransmitter, glutamate, creating an imbalance in the brain that tilts the body into an inflammatory environment.
Anxiety is often portrayed as an issue best saved for cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and the occasional pharmaceutical intervention. It’s a brain thing. You overcome the pervasive threat by mastering your thoughts, or suppressing the symptoms.
The diet doesn’t really enter the picture, ignoring the fact that the brain and body are inextricably linked. Anxiety is an autoimmune condition, meaning that inflammatory foods are the driving force behind the flare ups. With a dysfunctional gut, inflammatory compounds from the diet are allowed to escape the purge of digestion and enter your body, causing chaos.
Your neurochemistry, which is already unstable in the case of leaky gut, is thrown further off balance, leading to anxious symptoms like a raised heart rate and prickly skin.
Now you could use beta blockers to drop the heart rate and thereby decrease the severity of anxious thoughts. But that’s going to have limited efficacy, create a crutch that can further antagonise the anxiety, and then saddle you with a host of side effects for your troubles.
Then there’s CBT, which is a minefield to navigate when you’re being assaulted by incessant noise of rumination. CBT won’t stop those inflammatory foods from creating the chaos in the first place. A mindfulness practice won’t cure your metabolic woes, it enables further healing once you’ve achieved some semblance of peace. That peace is only going to be present once you’ve tamed the gut.
To solve a problem like anxiety, you need to be able to eliminate the trigger foods, and allow the gut to heal. That naturally leads us to carnivore, the ultimate elimination diet.
And as it happens, the ketones you’d be producing on carnivore would further help attenuate ROS. It’s profit no matter where you look.
How Keto Lowers ROS
- Anti inflammatory
- Less energy needed to produce fuel
- Stabilises neurochemistry by raising the GABA to glutamate ratio
- Provides the brain with an uninterrupted source of fuel
- Prevents low blood sugar
There’s more I could cover, but you’ll see what I’m getting at here. A carnivore diet causes vast reductions in prooxidants, and thereby, negates oxidative stress. It becomes much easier to keep the body in that fine balance between prooxidants and antioxidants.
So the need for supplementation becomes irrelevant and unnecessary. Don’t sweat over the lack of resveratrol in the animal kingdom. If it’s not an animal product, the body doesn’t need it. The capacity to thrive is possible entirely through a carnivore diet.
How A Carnivore Diet Reduces Oxidative Stress
- Increases the production of natural antioxidants in glutathione and uric acid
- Which are much more potent than any exogenous antioxidants
- Decreases the ingestion of prooxidants by eliminating sugar, seed oils, and plant toxins
- Which carry much more weight than any exogenous antioxidants