Much mystery surrounds the physiological processes by which humans age, but scientists are learning more all the time. With this knowledge come new possibilities around how we can not only slow them down, but possibly even reverse them. A new breakthrough at the University of Colorado is the latest advance in the area, demonstrating how a chemically altered nutritional supplement may well reverse aging of the blood vessels, in turn giving cardiovascular health a vital boost.
The human body is pretty good at fending off oxidative stress when we're young, protecting molecules from critical damage caused by rogue molecules known as free radicals. These are molecules that have found themselves with at least one unpaired electron, so they set off in search of a match, often robbing another molecule of theirs and setting off a chain reaction of irreversible molecular damage.
Antioxidants are handy because they intervene and palm off an electron to the free radical, nipping this process in the bud. These are naturally produced in sufficient numbers in our youth, but as we grow older and free radicals become more prevalent, the antioxidants find themselves overwhelmed. When it comes to our blood vessels, this renders them stiffer and less able dilate in response to heightened blood flow as the free radicals cause damage to their lining, which is known as the endothelium.
This is one of the reasons nutrition experts place such a big emphasis on incorporating good sources of antioxidants into our diets, but some are more effective than others. While foods with naturally occurring antioxidants are a good source, recent research has shown those offered by oral supplements like vitamin C or vitamin E to be ineffective, or possibly even harmful.