Body cells and tissues are threatened continuously by damage caused by toxic free radicals and reactive oxygen species (e.g., peroxides) which are produced during normal oxygen metabolism, by other chemical reactions, and by toxic agents in the environment. Free radicals, once formed, are capable of disrupting metabolic activity and cell structure. When this occurs, additional free radicals are produced which, in turn, can result in more extensive damage to cells and tissues. The uncontrolled production of free radicals is thought to be a major contributing factor to many degenerative pathologies. The body’s antioxidant defense system is more than the sum of its parts. That’s because antioxidants depend on each other for ongoing effectiveness. For example, beta-carotene supports vitamin E, recognized as the body’s most valuable fat soluble antioxidant. It prevents oxidation of unsaturated fatty acids by inactivating free radicals, thus stabilizing and protecting cell membranes, e.g. in the lungs, eyes, and arteries. Vitamin E can be regenerated by vitamin C. Vitamin C is a potent water-soluble antioxidant nutrient, also protecting cells from oxygen free radical damage. It is essential for connective tissue and bone metabolism, capillary health, and immune function. Vitamin C works together with vitamin E. When vitamin E is inactivated by neutralizing free radicals, vitamin C regenerates it back to full activity. In this process, however, vitamin C is oxidized and loses its antioxidant activity.
Glutathione reactivates vitamin C, while selenium and B-vitamins are needed to keep glutathione effective. Glutathione is a naturally occurring tripeptide which is a major component of two anti-free radical enzymes – glutathione peroxidase and glutathione reductase. As such, glutathione offers one mechanism for scavenging toxic free radicals and inhibiting peroxidation thereby slowing down free-radical catalyzed chain reactions. Glutathione can also reactivate (reduce) oxidized vitamin C. Glutathione per se is well absorbed in the intestine, and enters the blood and other extracellular compartments where it exerts much of its beneficial antioxidant effects. However, it can not effectively enter the cell. N-Acetylcysteine is a precursor for the sulfur amino acid cysteine which is used by the cells to synthesize glutathione. In contrast to glutathione, N-acetylcysteine is efficiently transported into the cell where it is readily converted to cysteine for glutathione synthesis. Thus, supplementation with N-acetylcysteine is recognized as a safe, highly effective method of increasing intracellular glutathione stores. Aside from providing cysteine as a glutathione precursor, N-acetylcysteine also appears to have antioxidant properties as such, and is a valuable sulfur donor for various metabolic needs. The bioflavonoids of Ultra Anti-Oxidant, i.e. rutin, hesperidin, and Pycnogenol!, provide additional antioxidant power, while zinc is needed to maintain the activity of the antioxidant enzyme superoxide dismutase.