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Antioxidants and free radicals


Antioxidants and free radicals

Dr Richard Lippman

The possibility of altering human aging has always been a subject close to my heart ever since I read about Professor Denham Harman’s mice experiments with antioxidants conducted during the 1950s when he extended mean lifespan by 50%!

I began my own anti-aging experiments with several large mice and rat colonies in 1979. I only thought of duplicating Prof. Harman’s revolutionary work to better understand the problems of aging. My first step was to understand the scientific language of his experiments and the results. At the time, the phrase, free radicals, was only applied to outlandish political groups. Another key word, antioxidant, was only known to a few professionals working in food chemistry, physical chemistry, and physics. I spent eight long years studying free-radical chemistry and biology, and consequently, I published 27 peer-reviewed articles in leading gerontological journals focusing on antioxidants and free radicals and their effects upon aging.

The 90s arrived, and ’antioxidants’ became the buzz word on everyone’s lips. I suddenly noticed that the word antioxidant was losing its original meaning. Health food suppliers were indiscriminately labeling every third product with the phrase, ’good antioxidant.’ A flood of scientific papers described all types of imaginable and unimaginable substances as being good antioxidants. Additionally, the quantities used were so tiny that they could not have a believable physiologic impact on the subjects, mice or humans, studied. I found all of this quasi-scientific hokum incredibly aggravating!

I remember attending several scientific conferences where speakers described their work with the phrase, ”excellent/superior/good antioxidant.” Many times, I challenged these speakers’ claims. The speakers always evaded my questions and/or referred me to other scientific publications in which further unsupported claims of good antioxidants were made. Many times I asked if these words had specific meanings, as trivializing these words renders them useless.

Finally, after dozens of attempts to pin down pop-science claims, I gave up. I surrendered. Apparently the buzz words, good antioxidants, were so ubiquitous in the pop and hype-marketing culture that they had lost any scientific meaning. Clearly, to health food manufacturers, the words’ use created greater profits, and to researchers, the words’ use resulted in increased grant funding.

Science distorted when mingled with hope, amplified for buzz and spun for profit

The hyped advertising of antioxidants is a true Juggernaut—much like the idol of Krishna carried on a huge carriage in a Hindu procession under the wheels of whose passage the pious would hurl themselves and often be crushed. I tried to avoid being crushed by my Juggernaut by stepping aside. I tried to think outside the box as my rigid scientific training dictated.

I must reiterate that the words antioxidant and free radical have real meanings to those who have studied years of free-radical chemistry in the academic departments of physics and organic and physical chemistry. Years of study and experimentation are needed in these specialties to comprehend the true scientific actions of antioxidants, free radicals, and ROS (reactive oxygen species). Pop science, media hype and spin are meaningless. If a scientist’s only education were from medical school or from the biological sciences, he or she probably would not even know some of the basics of antioxidant and free-radical chemistry— unless he or she collaborated extensively with knowledgeable physicists or physical or organic chemists.

Please be skeptical of all information about free radicals, ROS, and antioxidants unless it emanates from a lab in which physicians and/or biologists are collaborating with physicists or physical or organic chemists. If information sounds as if it has been created by advertising, it probably has been. I have listed some simple steps that help identify marketing-hyped antioxidants as follows:

  1. A) Antioxidants are discussed but no mention is made of their opposites, namely, pro-oxidants.
  2. No detailed descriptions are given as to antioxidant testing conducted on humans.

Efficacious testing in humans can and has been done (ref. 1,2,3,4,5) and patented (6). But since the arrival of the pop-science meaning of antioxidants, few marketers bother with anything so difficult and expensive as human testing. The same is true for natural, bio-identical hormones.

Again, think scientifically. Develop an innate feeling for what seems authentic and what is probably not.

For example, Mitoquinone (MitoQ) is a new patented drug currently under NDA (new drug application) – but which may like most other drugs cost a billion dollars to bring to market- is undergoing animal testing and human double-blind testing. It is expensive to test antioxidants and free-radical scavengers in humans for efficacy. Most manufacturers and their scientists ONLY test antioxidants in vitro (in a test tube), while animal and human testing is rejected as too expensive. If you doubt this statement, please examine the claims for ‘MitoQ’ at:


This scientific article clearly states that ”treatment of endothelial cells with MitoQ resulted in a dramatic increase in superoxide production.” Second, “these findings demonstrate that MitoQ may be prooxidant and proapoptotic.” These quotations signify that cells are damaged or destroyed (apoptotic) by superoxide, and that MitoQ acts as pro-oxidant and not as an antioxidant in living systems. It’s an example of why we must beware of marketing claims conjured up on the cheap and lacking in credible scientific validity.

Slowing Aging with Antioxidants, etc.

The question arises whether there really are genuine antioxidants and free-radical scavengers proven to slow aging in mice and/or humans. Yes, of course; they appear in the pre-1990s literature (1,2,3,4,5,6). The most outstanding example is the work of Professor Denham Harman conducted in the mid-50s: Truly powerful antioxidants, such as butylated hydroxy toluene (BHT), butylated hydroxy anisole (BHA), and Ethoxyquin®, etc., were proven to expand mean lifespan and retard aging in mice and chickens. Indeed, chickens increased their egg-laying lifespan by a resounding 40%! Second, Professor Harman has told me personally that BHT was used in the K rations (canned food) of WWII soldiers, and this brillant step reduced the incidence of stomach cancer by one third.

There are important conclusions to be drawn from this information and from these percentages. Truly strong antioxidants do exist that are proven to retard aging. One may ask, how can one identify other truly strong antioxidants? And by truly strong, I mean substances such as BHT and BHA—NOT vitamins. Medical instrumentation does exist that compares strong antioxidants in humans and animals (6).

This medical instrumentation was developed by my multidisciplinary research team in Sweden. This exhausting and expensive research resulted in several US and international patents being issued in the late 1980s (6). My US patent is the only one ever granted that contained numerous claims for retarding human aging.

The only patent ever granted for antiaging

This patent is the only one ever tested by three independent government laboratories under the auspicies of the NIA (National Institute on Aging) and judged to slow the aging process.

When I applied for my patent, there were two classical restrictions for approval. The first was a perpetual motion machine, and the second was a fountain-of-youth elixir. My patent did seem to encroach upon this second restriction, but I prevailed. Because of this patent approval and other work with free radicals in living systems, I was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1996.

What Did I Determine?

I determined that free radicals, especially hydroxyl radicals (HR or chemically symbolized as •OH), are extremely destructive to our bodies and to our DNA. Indeed, they are so destructive that any organic molecule in their pathway is instantly altered for the worse. They have very short lifespans of only a few nanoseconds, and during that short time interval, our bodies possess no enzyme or other defense against them. Thus, damage occurs; fortunately, however, DNA-repair enzymes do eventually repair much DNA damage, especially in young people.

A poignant example of the incredible destructive power of HR may be seen in the nuclear explosions of Hiroshima and Nagasake that occurred during WWII. In the survivors, enormous cell damage was experienced by HR, destroying in nanoseconds the body and its DNA, as illustrated in figure one. Those victims with good enzyme repair systems were able to rebuild and regenerate both their bodies and DNA. Furthermore, today, some 60 years later, some survivors I know personally are healthy and living vibrant lives in their advanced senior years.

Enzyme repair systems make amends

Enzyme repair systems do make amends, but strong antioxidants—not weak vitamins such as C and E—are the players that help with these vital repair processes. I have done extensive clinical studies on strong antioxidants and free-radical quenchers in animals as well as in humans, and the results are described in my book, Stay 40.

ACF228™ are also described in my book. These ingredients help to lengthen healthspan as well as lifespan. Healthspan lengthens so that even during our advanced senior years, these ingredients will promote a lean, hard, healthy physique, especially when combined with exercise and bio-identical hormone replacement therapy. Second, our mean lifespan will increase as indicated by longevity studies conducted with mice, chickens, and dogs


Figure: The author’s aging 36-month-old Sprague-Dawley mice fed standard lab chow (above) versus 0.4% BHT fed mice (below).

By mean lifespan, I am refering to average but not maximum lifespan increasing when ACF228™ is consumed. Maximum lifespan does not increase when using antioxidants or free-radical scavengers, as the limiting factor is lymphoma cancer (8).

Avoiding A Limiting Factor to our Maximum Longevity

My dear friend and the former head of Karolinska Hospital and Institute (Stockholm, Sweden), Prof. Gunnar Moberg, used to state emphatically that eventually we will all die of cancer if we manage to escape all other maladies. He was correct, and if we are to escape cancer, we have some methods to do so. For example, 5,000 iu daily of vitamin D3 prevents 26 forms of cancer. Sufficient T3 plus T4 (Armour® Thyroid) supplements avoid 32% of all cancers by clearing toxic waste accumulated between cells.

Third, some skin cancers are eliminated by applying BEC5™ cream to areas showing skin-cell changes.

Fourth, daily consumption of bioidentical progesterone (not the synthetic progestins) and estriol avoids prominent cancers of the prostate, breast, and uterus, as these two hormones naturally protect us from the carcinogens, 4-hydroxyestradiol and 16 alpha hydroxyestradiol. These latter two are naturally generated by our bodies’ metabolisms as downstream metabolites of estradiol.

Fifth, regular consumption of natural substances that help to build and maintain our immune system will help us to eliminate cancer and precancerous cells that our bodies may be harboring. A prime example of this is the enzyme catalase contained in ACF228™. Catalase is known to extend lifespan and prevent cancer in mice by 18% versus controls (6). It also might protect against cancer in humans. Recent research with catalase indicates it will extend lifespan and healthspan.


In conclusion, I hope that you will examine all antioxidant and free-radical claims with a sharp eye. Please look beyond the horse-and-pony shows of modern marketing, and find some current therapies that truly slow the mean rate of human aging as well as prevent cancers that affect maximum lifespan.

After 32 years of consuming truly strong antioxidants three times daily, I am biologically 20 years younger than are my contemporaries. My youthful look and high state of joyful energy was further enhanced by correcting and balancing my hormones, especially HGH and IGF-1. I am 67-years-young, and I recently proved the value of my therapies by carrying, all by myself, a queen-size mattress and box spring up a flight of stairs in five minutes flat. This feat is testament to the efficacy of my recommendations that significantly improve physical strength and balance as well as enhance brain speed and joie de vivre!


  1. Richard Lippman,.The Prolongation of Life: A Comparison of Antioxidants and Geroprotectors Versus Superoxide in Human Mitochondria. Journal of Gerontology, Vol. 36, No.5, (1981) 550–557.
  1. Richard Lippman, et. al., Application of Chemiluminescent Probes in Investigating Lysosomal Sensitivity to Superoxide Verus Suspected Radical Scavengers. Mechanisms of Ageing and Development, Vol. 17, (1981) 283–287.
  1. Richard Lippman, Lipid Peroxidation and Metabolism in Aging: A Biological, Chemical, and Medical Approach. Review of Biological Research in Aging, Alan R. Liss, Inc., NY, NY, Vol. 1, (1983) 315–342.
  1. Richard Lippman, and M. Uhlen, Kan Aldrandet Uppskjutas? Forskning and Framsteg, Vol.1, (1981) 24–27.
  1. Richard Lippman, Measurement of Lipid Hydroperoxides and Collagen Elasticity Directly in vivo In Mice And Man. Oxygen Radicals in Chemistry and Biology, Walter de Gruyter & Co., Berlin, (1984)736–740.
  1. Richard Lippman, Method For Retarding Aging, US Patent Nr. 4695590.
  1. Richard Lippman, Stay 40, Outskirts Press, Denver, CO. (2009).
  1. J. Couzin-Frankel, Aging Genes: The Sirtuin Story Unravels, Science. 334. (Dec. 2011): 1194–1198.