ORAC Score : Oxygen Radical Absorption Capacity

November 07, 2005

ORAC Score : Oxygen Radical Absorption Capacity 

 Competency # 14  SUPERFOODS                     Reference: Tufts School of Nutrition 

 It's summer and time to feast on fruit, and for more than just the taste.  Fruits and vegetables have abundant antioxidants in them.  These antioxidants help protect the fruit from the oxidizing effect of photosynthesis.  They also work in our bodies to cut down on oxidizing processes that are at the basis of much of inflammation. ORAC stands for Oxygen Radical Absorption Capacity.  

The folks at Tufts School of Nutrition have developed it as a tool to measure the amount that any given food can neutralize free radicals in your body.  There is lots of research correlating the oxidative environment in your body to coronary artery disease as well as Alzheimer’s.  The Tufts recommendation is that you should aim to eat about 3500 ORAC points a day. 

 Why the big deal about ORAC points and juices?  Two weeks ago, all the news channels carried a story about how you can cut your risks of Alzheimer’s by as much as 74% by drinking 4 servings of fruit and veggie juice a week.   The study that showed this benefit came from the Kame Project, a long-term study of more than 1,800 Japanese-Americans in the Seattle area. When the study started in 1992-1994, no participants had dementia. On average, the participants were about 71 years old. At the beginning of the study, participants completed surveys about the foods and drinks they typically consumed. Smoking, alcohol, daily calories, physical activity, body mass index (BMI), vitamin supplements, and other health problems (such as diabetes and cancer) were also noted. 

The group was followed through 2001. During that time, 81 cases of probable Alzheimer's disease were diagnosed in participants who had completed the food surveys. The most frequent juice drinkers were the least likely to have developed Alzheimer's. Those who reported drinking fruit or vegetable juices at least three times per week were 73% less likely to have developed Alzheimer's as those who drank juice less than once a week. 

WWW: What will work for me?  The same type of results are being found with cherry juice and arthritis.  The flavonoids in cherry juice are as much as 10 times as potent anti-inflammatories as aspirin.  (Remember: aspirin is extract of willow bark).  Growing numbers of people have found that drinking 4-6 oz of TART cherry juice a day will cut your pain from arthritis.   Notably, my own spouse is drinking it and finding that her 2 year long chronic shin splints go away allowing her to walk her usual 6 mile hike 3 times a week.  Do you have a chronic ache and pain?  Tart cherry juice may work for you too.  There's evidence! 

Number 101 continued Message: Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables.  It's all in the mix and the quantity.  Replace a baked carbohydrate product with a fruit or fruit juice each day and I’ll see you at age 92! Interested in Blueberries, that's next week.  We'll talk about Alzheimer’s some more, if I can remember to.  In the meantime, here are some ORAC scores of different fruits.  Learn to think in ORAC scores.  Feast on all these fruits while they are cheap.  Sam's Club has blueberries at $ 2 a pound.  I bought 10 pounds and put them in the freezer.  The season still has a few weeks to run. Fruit ORAC Score Tart Cherry Juice          12,800 Dried Tart Cherries                 6,800 Prunes                         5,770 Blueberries                  2,400 Blackberries                 2,036 Frozen Tart Cherries      2,033 Canned Water-packed Tart Cherries   1,700 Strawberries                   1,540 Raspberries                     1,220 Plums                                949 Oranges                            750 Red Grapes                       739 Note:            This list was put out by the Cherry Growers Association.  You wouldn’t drink juice concentrate but the relative ORAC score is still valid.  Diluted down 4 times, it’s still great stuff.

This column was written by Dr. John E. Whitcomb, Brookfield Longevity, Brookfield, WI. (262-784-5300)