Oxidative stress is one of the factors responsible for ageing and low life expectancy. Dr. Ivana Ivanović-Burmazović, Professor and Chair of Bioinorganic Chemistry at Friedrich-Alexander-Universitat Erlangen-Nurnberg (FAU), and her team of researchers discovered that when taken with coffee, tea, or chocolate, zinc has the ability to activate an organic molecule which helps protect against oxidative stress.
The FAU team in partnership with Christian Goldsmith, PhD, Associate Professor at Auburn University, discovered that a plant substance found in polyphenols—compounds responsible for smell and taste in coffee, tea, wine, and chocolate—called hydroquinone, combined with zinc, protects against superoxides. A by-product of the human respiration system that causes damage to the body's biomolecules, superoxides are factors of the ageing process, inflammation, cancer, and neurodegenerative diseases.
However, hydroquinone alone cannot break down superoxides. Zinc and hydroquinone need to combine in order to create a metal complex that imitates a superoxide dismutase enzyme. These enzymes have antioxidative effects that protect against the degradation process. The superoxides are metabolized which prevents damage to the body; therefore, oxidative stress is avoided.
Zinc combined with hydroquinone is able to replicate the function of the superoxide dismutase enzyme without reverting to redox-active transition metals such as manganese, iron, copper, or nickel. Like zinc, these redox-active transition metals can also have an antioxidative effect; however, there is a threshold with these metals. Higher doses can cause oxidative stress, negating the benefits. Zinc doesn't have a sensitive threshold and is much less toxic than the redox-active transition metals. This makes it possible for zinc to be included in a supplement or used as medication, as there would be fewer side effects.
Another option would be adding zinc to foods that contain hydroquinone. "It is certainly possible that wine, coffee, tea, or chocolate may well become available in the future with added zinc. However, any alcohol content whatsoever would destroy the positive effects of this combination" claims Dr. Ivanović-Burmazović. It would be best to stick to consuming just chocolate, tea, and coffee with added zinc for the most benefits.
For more information
Ward M, Scheitler A, Yu M, et al (2018). Superoxide dismutase activity enabled by a redox-active ligand rather than metal. Nat Chem.[Epub ahead of print] DOI:10.1038/s41557-018-0137-1