Why Antioxidants are Important for Hepatitis C Patients
Cellular oxidation occurs when oxygen or disease excessively breaks down a substance, producing free radicals. As negatively charged electrons no longer attached to their atoms, free radicals create chemical instability. This instability invites another atom or molecule to easily bond with the free radical, resulting in a cellular-altering chemical reaction capable of damaging cell walls, cellular structures and the genetic material inside cells. This process is readily seen in Hepatitis C’s deterioration of liver tissue. Antioxidants reduce, neutralize, and prevent the damage inflicted by free radicals.
Research illustrating the role of oxidation in advancing liver disease has consistently been produced over the years:
- 2006 – The Journal of Translational Medicine published a Turkish study whose aim was to determine oxidant/antioxidant status of patients with chronic Hepatitis C and the effect of combination therapy (pegylated interferon alfa-2b plus ribavirin) on oxidative stress. Researchers reported that patients with chronic HCV infection are under the influence of oxidative stress associated with lower levels of antioxidant enzymes. These impairments return to healthy levels following combination therapy. Although interferon and ribavirin are not antioxidants, their antiviral capacity might reduce viral load and inflammation, allowing for a reduction in virus-induced oxidative stress. Therefore, antioxidants can reduce the oxidative stress of Hepatitis C and make combination therapy more successful.
- 2005 – An Israeli study published in the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology observed that oxidative stress in the liver is associated with chronic Hepatitis C infection. Researchers concluded that treatment with multiple antioxidants for people with chronic HCV was well tolerated and has a therapeutic benefit for hepatic inflammation and liver cell death. Therefore, antioxidant therapy can reduce liver inflammation and cell death.
- 2002 – A study published in the Journal of Hepatology measured levels of fibrosis and corresponding levels of oxidative stress in Hepatitis C patients. The authors found oxidative stress to be a significant feature of HCV infection. Although more severe in those with cirrhosis, there was clear evidence of oxidative stress in non-cirrhotic patients with the virus. The authors concluded that antioxidant therapy may have a role in slowing disease progression to cirrhosis.
- 1999 – A University of New Mexico study combined three potent antioxidants (alpha-lipoic acid, silymarin, and selenium) for administration to patients with cirrhosis, portal hypertension and esophageal varices secondary to chronic Hepatitis C infection. Those on the triple antioxidant program recovered quickly from HCV and their laboratory values remarkably improved. Furthermore, liver transplantation was avoided and the patients returned to work, carried out their normal activities, and reported feeling healthy. Therefore, antioxidants can help people improve their quality of life and recover more rapidly from Hepatitis C.
The overwhelming evidence suggests that antioxidants may hinder the Hepatitis C virus in the following ways:
- Impairs HCV replication
- Improves liver enzyme levels
- Protects against liver cell damage
- Renders interferon anti-viral therapy more effective
Dietary Sources of Antioxidants
A simple way to add antioxidants to your life is to seek them in food sources. Found in fruits and vegetables rich in Vitamins C and E, selenium, carotenoids and anthocyanins, antioxidants are optimally absorbed from whole food sources. Since antioxidants are the substances responsible for color, brightly colored produce represent the sources highest in free radical fighting power. Some examples of foods high in antioxidants are:
- Cabbage, broccoli, spinach and kale (Note to Hepatitis C patients: both spinach and kale are high in iron; check with your doctor before including in your regular diet.)
- Citrus fruits, strawberries, melons, apricots and mangos
- Sweet potatoes, tomatoes, corn, eggplant
- Romaine lettuce, avocadoes, carrots
- Blueberries, cranberries, red grapes
Additionally, antioxidants are widely available in supplement form. A refined milk thistle extract is a highly trusted antioxidant supplement that demonstrates tremendous benefits to the liver.
Whether you intend to improve the outcome of combination therapy, or simply wish to halt the progression of cirrhosis, remember the research demonstrating the benefits of antioxidants. Including antioxidant-rich foods and supplements into a daily routine can provide enormous protective benefit to those with chronic Hepatitis C.
Jain SK, Pemberton PW, Smith A, et al, Oxidative stress in chronic hepatitis C: not just a feature of late stage disease, Journal of Hepatology, 2002.
Levent G, Ali A, Ahmet A, et al., Oxidative stress and antioxidant defense in patients with chronic hepatitis C before and after pegylated interferon alfa-2b plus ribavirin therapy, Journal of Translational Medicine, June 2006.
Melhem A, Stern M, Shibolet O, et al, Treatment of chronic hepatitis C virus infection via antioxidants: results of a phase I clinical trial, Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology, September 2005.
www.deliciousorganics.com, Antioxidants, Delicious Organics, Inc., 2004.
www.healthyhepper.com, Antioxidants, Free Radicals and Your Liver, healthyhepper.com, 2004.
www.integrative-healthcare.com/mt, Anti-Inflammatory Foods, Natural Wellness, 9/22/05.