Antioxidants and Isaiah

by John P. Pratt

Reprinted from Meridian Magazine (11 Feb 2003)
©2003 by John P. Pratt. All rights Reserved.

Index, Home

1. Infant Mortality
2. Degenerative Diseases
3. Antioxidants
4. Longevity
4.1 The Tree of Life
4.2 Grapes
4.3 Word of Wisdom
5. Conclusion
Isaiah prophesied that in the Millennium "the child shall die an hundred years old." Modern research suggests that antioxidants often found in fresh fruits and vegetables may be the key to longevity.

Colorful antioxidants: carotene makes carrots orange, lycopene makes tomatoes red, and lutein is found in dark green leafy vegetables.

Isaiah provides us with a surprisingly detailed description of life during the Millennium. One of the features he describes is that infant death will become a thing of the past, and that adults will live for a century, even to the age of a tree:

There shall be no more thence an infant of days, nor an old man that hath not filled his days: for the child shall die an hundred years old; but the sinner being an hundred years old shall be accursed.
And they shall build houses, and inhabit them: and they shall plant vineyards, and eat the fruit of them.
They shall not build, and another inhabit; they shall not plant, and another eat: for as the days of a tree are the days of my people, and mine elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands. (Isaiah 65:20-22)

The Lord confirmed Isaiah's prophecy in modern times:

In that day an infant shall not die until he is old; and his life shall be as the age of a tree;
And when he dies he shall not sleep, that is to say in the earth, but shall be changed in the twinkling of an eye, and shall be caught up, and his rest shall be glorious.
Yea, verily I say unto you, in that day when the Lord shall come, he shall reveal all things (D&C 101:30-32, compare D&C 63:50-51)

Let us review scientific advances both in infant mortality as well as longevity, to see how this prophecy of Isaiah is already beginning to be fulfilled even before the Savior comes again to "reveal all things."

1. Infant Mortality

Louis Pasteur's discovery of germs helped eradicate infant deaths.
When the Lord gave the above revelation the infant death rate was that over 40% of children in the United States didn't live to be age 10. That means a parent with five children could expect to lose two of them in those early years! We can now only imagine what it was for a parent to live with such devastating odds of being allowed to raise even half of their children, because now the child mortality rate has dropped to be a mere 1%.[1]

Many wonderful advances in modern medicine have helped this miracle to occur. Louis Pasteur's discovery that many diseases are spread by germs greatly improved infant survival. Many babies and their mothers perished simply because a physician would deliver a baby right after handling a cadaver without so much as washing his hands in between. According to the law of Moses, someone who touched anything dead was "unclean" and should be purified by either waiting seven days or washing his hands (Lev. 11, 15, 22). Even though the Lord does not always explain his reasons to us, he does provide us with many helpful health hints that work whether or not we understand them.

An important point here is that the part of Isaiah's prophecy concerning infant death has been nearly totally fulfilled by advancements in medicine before the Lord has even come to begin the Millennium. Apparently after he arrives he will reveal what is necessary to save even that other 1% so that no children will die prematurely. Now let us consider Isaiah's prophecy of longevity.

2. Degenerative Diseases and Longevity

Quercetin, a flavonoid abundant in apples, may be the ingredient which helps them to protect against cancer.
As quoted above, Isaiah also prophesied that men would no longer die before their allotted time, but would live to be a hundred years old. That may be a two-part prophecy. First, the diseases which often cause early deaths will be done away with, and second, the normal aging process may be slowed down so that an "old man" will then be at least a hundred years old rather than seventy.

In 1850, if a person succeeded to survive infant mortality problems and arrived at age ten, then he could expect to live to be 58 years old on the average. In 1900 that had only increased by two years to 60. In the following century, it increased by 15 years so that an adult can now expect to live to be about 75 years of age.[2]

While medicine has made wonderful advances both in prolonging the length of life as well as the quality of life, the question arises as to whether or not 75 appears to be the upper limit for a "ripe old age." The answer is clearly negative. Medicine discovered cures for the leading diseases of the early 1900's but three new causes of death have surfaced during the last century for which no wonder drug has been found. Neither heart disease, cancer nor stroke accounted for even 8% of deaths in 1900. Since 1960, heart disease and cancer account for over half of all deaths, with stroke a distant third as shown by the following table. Stroke is closely related to heart disease because both are caused by arteries becoming clogged with rancid cholesterol. Whereas in heart disease the arteries to the heart get clogged first, in stroke it is those to the brain. Thus, for the last fifty years, clogged arteries and cancer have accounted for more than a staggering 60% of all deaths. Not shown in the table are the many other degenerative diseases such as arthritis and Alzheimer's disease, which do not cause death immediately but greatly reduce the quality of life.

YearExpected age Leading Cause of Death
190060Pneumonia/Flu 12%Tuberculosis 11%Diarrhea 8%
192064Pneumonia/Flu 16%Heart Disease 13%Tuberculosis 9%
194065Heart Disease 27%Cancer 11%Stroke 8%
196070Heart Disease 39%Cancer 16%Stroke 11%
198072Heart Disease 38%Cancer 24%Stroke 7%
199775Heart Disease 31%Cancer 23%Stroke 7%
Table 1. While life expectancy of a 10-year-old has increased, the leading causes of death are still largely unchecked.[3]

The question arises as to why have heart disease and cancer risen to dominate the death scene when they were not even serious contenders before 1900.

3. Antioxidants

Cryptoxanthin, found in peaches, may protect against cervical cancer.
Scientific research over the last four decades is now producing answers to the question of what causes heart disease, cancer and stroke. Some researchers noticed that one thing which has changed dramatically since 1900 is the American diet. In our fast-paced society, we have turned to prepared foods and fast foods, and away from fresh fruits and vegetables grown in our gardens. At first scientists were loathe to believe that a mere change in diet could bring on such killer diseases, but now the conclusions are based on sound scientific data.

The Antioxidant Miracle by world-famous researcher Lester Packer summarizes the last four decades of research.[4] Dr. Packer has written 700 scientific articles and 70 books on the subject, but this is his first book for the layman. Only a tiny part of the findings are summarized here from that highly recommended book.

In a nutshell, the findings are that our bodies are under constant attack by free radicals, which are unstable molecules that damage our cells. We have a natural defense mechanism to protect us from this continual onslaught: antioxidants. These are molecules which neutralize the free radicals before they can do their damage. The damage that causes clogged arteries is cholesterol turning rancid (being oxidized) which then sticks to the artery walls leading to heart disease and stroke, and a host of other problems such as impotence and Alzheimer's disease. The other principal damage is to the DNA within the cell which governs all of the cells activities, including reproducing and even self-destructing when needed. When the governing DNA itself is damaged, it leads to cancer, which is the unchecked multiplication of cells which would have died a natural death if their DNA had not been damaged.

So what are these antioxidants which are supposed to protect us? Two of the main ones are vitamin C (water soluble) and vitamin E (fat soluble). The word "vitamin" refers a substance which is required to sustain life which is not produced within the body, but which we must get from the foods or supplements we eat. There are actually hundreds of antioxidants needed, which can be obtained largely from a diet including plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. However, in this modern day of depleted soils and over-processed foods, Dr. Packer points out that food supplements are necessary in order to receive optimum amounts of these antioxidants. The quality of research being performed is so impressive that this author has written a more detailed book review complete with a table summarizing optimum amounts of each antioxidant recommended.[5]

The antioxidant vitamin C prevents scurvy.
Today no one questions the fact that vitamin C prevents scurvy, but for hundreds of years it was a great mystery to know what caused half of the crews of the great world explorers of the 1500's to die a horrible death. It turns out that since the 1200's, voyagers had been advised to take plenty of fresh fruits along with them, including lemons, to avoid scurvy. Many failed to do so, perhaps finding it hard to believe that such a simple thing as eating an orange could prevent a killer disease. Finally by 1800 the British navy required sailors to eat limes, and now the disease only occurs where vitamin C sources are not eaten.

The evidence relating vitamin E and other antioxidants (such as lipoic acid and coenzyme Q10) to clogged arteries and cancer is almost as strong as that relating vitamin C to scurvy. When a scientist wants to induce heart disease in laboratory animals, vitamin E can simply be withheld and the animals get heart disease. It's a simple as that. When vitamin E is restored, they improve dramatically. That sounds a lot like withholding vitamin C to induce scurvy. To me this means that in the next century heart disease and cancer will become a thing of the past, as scurvy is now, for those who heed the warnings and make simple changes to their diets. Packer's book also details how many other diseases such as adult-onset diabetes and arthritis can be greatly reduced by proper antioxidant intake.

Natural Foods

Garlic and onions contain cancer-fighting phytochemicals.
Because many scientists don't believe in the Creator, they have no reason to think that foods come packaged as a set of nutrients that were designed to work together. Thus they seem constantly to be trying to isolate one ingredient, either as a drug or as a nutrient. For example flavonoids, another group of antioxidants, come packaged with vitamin C in citrus fruits and other natural sources. Vitamin C is often sold as the single chemical ascorbic acid, but some companies left the natural flavonoids intact with it. Today those who included the flavonoids even before science had demonstrated their importance have been vindicated. The flavonoids have been shown to boost the effectiveness of vitamin C.

That scenario is repeating with vitamin E. It was first found the human liver prefers the "alpha" or principal tocopherol. So most vitamin companies supply only that one part of vitamin E, and often it is created synthetically from petroleum. The natural form is labeled with "d-" as "d-alpha tocopherol." Now it has been found that the entire vitamin E complex is necessary for health because each of the four tocopherols has a different use. Moreover, the tocotrienols which are part of the complex are also very important because they help scrub out arteries which are already clogged. They are found in the bran of grains which so often has been removed in the "refining" process, having been thought unimportant. Thus, as scientific research advances, we find that those are vindicated who have believed all along in a Creator who provides nutritious food pre-packaged for us in healthy combinations and proportions.

4. Longevity

Given that many of the degenerative diseases can be controlled, if not eradicated, by proper vitamin, mineral, and antioxidant intake, what about the length of life in general? Isaiah also said that many would live to be the age of a tree in the Millennium. Can the length of live be increased from our current 75 years? The answer throughout history is that there have been many groups who have routinely lived to be 120 years old, with virtually no incidence whatever of degenerative diseases. The Essenes at the time of Christ and the Hunza in Tibet are well-known examples. What they had in common was that their diet consisted of fresh fruits and vegetables from their own naturally fertilized gardens which were rich in minerals. Various researchers have attributed their success to either the minerals, water, or fresh foods, but it might well be due to a combination of these simple healthy living practices.

Our bodies are known to produce fewer antioxidants with age, so that our defenses against free radicals diminish with time. About fifty years ago the theory was advanced that perhaps antioxidants are not only the key to fighting degenerative diseases, but also to slowing down the aging process in general. Further research has confirmed this hypothesis. For example, the life of certain cells in the laboratory has been doubled by giving ample antioxidants. If similar results could be obtained in humans that could mean living to the age of two centuries rather than one. That sounds even more like the age of a tree, and is reminiscent of the extremely advanced ages of the antediluvian patriarchs.

4.1 The Tree of Life

So now that we have discovered that antioxidants found in many healthy fruits and vegetables can prolong life, one might ask what is in the fruit of the tree of life? The Book of Revelation tells us that the sides of the crystal river will be lined with the tree of life which bears twelve different fruits, each in a different month, and that its leaves will heal the nations (Rev. 22:1-2). It sounds like fruit and green leaves are going to be a key to health and longevity. The "universal antioxidant" is called lipoic acid because it is both water and fat soluble and it helps to recycle several other antioxidants. Studies have shown that as much as 100 mg of lipoic acid per day may be optimum to protect against disease and prolong life. The problem is that although spinach is a good source of lipoic acid, it takes seven pounds of spinach to provide 1 mg of it. This is why the researchers say that for maximum benefit we need to supplement our diets. What has occurred to me is that perhaps the leaves of the tree of life are much richer in antioxidants so that during the Millennium simply eating the foods available could extend life considerably. Of course, that is only speculation, but the scientific facts are that these antioxidants greatly decrease the chance of contracting the main killer diseases and also prolong the average life of cells.

4.2 Grapes

Red grapes contain phenolic compounds such as catechin, epicatehin, and gallic acid which prevent LDL cholesterol from turning rancid and clogging arteries, the cause of heart disease and stroke.
Note that grapes are specifically mentioned in the context of longevity in the first quote from Isaiah which began this article: "they shall plant vineyards, and eat the fruit of them" (Isa. 65:21). That verse occurs between those stating that people will live to be 100 years old and to the age of a tree. As is well known today, it has been discovered that important antioxidants are contained in both the skins and seeds of grapes. So again, Isaiah hit the bull's-eye in a verse where it may have looked like he lost his train of thought for a moment. In fact, he even said "eat" the fruit, presumably including the skins and seeds, rather than merely "drink the juice of."

4.3 Word of Wisdom

Of course, some of these discoveries may not surprise the LDS people who were told by the Lord in the Word of Wisdom back in 1833 that we should eat "all wholesome herbs" and "every fruit in the season thereof" (D&C 89:10-11). It even explicitly mentions the "fruit of the vine" as healthful (D&C 89:16). We were told that if we follow this wise advice, and also avoid meat except in times of famine or cold, we will have health in the navel and that the "destroying angel" would pass us by. I for one am going to make more of an effort to dodge the destroying angel by eating more fresh fruits and vegetables and taking antioxidant supplements.

5. Conclusion

Isaiah's prophecies that infant death would disappear and that men would not die early but live to be a century old is already beginning to be fulfilled. Many of the diseases and other causes of infant death have been overcome by modern medicine, to the extent that the infant mortality rate has dropped from 40% in 1850 to 1% today. Research in the last few decades now indicates that the three leading causes of death, heart disease, cancer and stroke can now be greatly reduced by the proper intake of antioxidants which are found in the fresh fruits and vegetables advocated by the Word of Wisdom. Moreover, it appears that antioxidants may also hold the key to counteracting aging processes in general, so that the expected life span of mankind is now rapidly approaching the century mark prophesied by Isaiah.


  1. According to the Time Almanac 2001 (p. 133) the life expectancy of a newborn in 1850 was 38.3 years, whereas a 10 year old at that time could expect to live to be 58.0 years old. In 1998, the average newborn should live to be 74.5 whereas a youth of 10 expects 75.2 years. Those numbers imply the results quoted.
  2. Ibid.
  3. The expected ages are from the source in footnote 1. The percentage of deaths from the three leading diseases are from The Amazing Almanac (Woodbridge, Conn.: Blackbirch Press, 2000), p. 251.
  4. Packer, Lester & Colman, Carol, The Antioxidant Miracle (New York: Wiley & Sons, 1999).
  5. Pratt, John P., "The Antioxidant Miracle" (1 Feb 2003),