Should people with cancer stock up on or avoid antioxidants?
The general public first started hearing about antioxidants and nutrition in the 1990s. These powerful substances, contained in many fresh fruits and vegetables, were said to be able to protect the cells of the body from unstable molecules known as free radicals. Scientists were looking at the effects of free radicals, which are produced when molecules within the body lose electrons to electrically-charged molecules of oxygen in the blood stream. When this happens, there is the possibility of damage to cellular DNA that, over time, can become permanent and lead to disease.
Researchers were studying a correlation between these free radicals and the development of chronic illnesses, such as heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and cataracts. Some studies showed that people who ate plenty of these fruits and vegetables high in antioxidants were at lower risk for developing these chronic conditions than were those with low intakes of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables.
Age-related conditions were of particular interest. The process in which free radicals are produced in the body is called oxidation and is one that occurs naturally for everyone. There needs to be a balance, however, because too much oxidative stress is what leads to these chronic illnesses. As we age, the body’s ability to moderate oxidation becomes less effective. This makes the role of a diet rich in free radical-taming antioxidants especially beneficial for combating age-related diseases.
Antioxidants became the super heroes of the supermarket. There will always be those who will never eat enough kale and spinach to satisfy the recommended consumption of antioxidant-containing fruits and vegetables so supplement makers recognized a new market and rushed to fill it. It’s quite possible that the claim that antioxidants can help prevent cancer is the biggest selling point. Unfortunately, further research has uncovered a twist to this story that is of particular importance to anyone diagnosed with cancer.
Should Those with Cancer Stock-Up on Antioxidants or Avoid Them?
It is hard to imagine that leafy green vegetables, like broccoli, kale, spinach, and mustard greens and brightly-colored fruits like blackberries, cranberries and blue berries could be anything but good for us. And, when it comes to preventing cancer, that is true: they are an important part of a healthy, cancer-preventing diet. Unfortunately, when cancer cells have already been identified in the body, that changes. A series of studies over the past several decades show that antioxidants can actually accelerate cancer progression. When the immune system detects precancerous cells, it goes to work to deal with them. Antioxidants can actually suppress the signals that activate this process, allowing the damaged cells to grow.
Confusing? Absolutely. Antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables are key components in some of the healthiest diets in the world. A prime example is the Mediterranean diet, which is recommended by many healthcare professionals for its role in preventing many serious and chronic diseases. No one is recommending we stop eating antioxidant-containing foods. There is a growing awareness, however, of the possible danger to those diagnosed with cancer. Medical research is making new discoveries every day, and the final chapter to this story has yet to be written. As is so often true, it is important to be informed and to have regular check-ups and consultations with healthcare professionals that you trust.
At Southern California Center for Anti-Aging we recommend diets that will help you to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight, rid your body of excessive inflammation, prevent disease and slow the aging process. We also have a variety of dietary supplements, vitamins and minerals available. Your treatment is tailored to remedy defects we find in your lab tests, such as vitamin or mineral deficiencies, presence of excessive fatty acids, oxidative stress markers, inflammatory markers and free radicals.
To learn more about antioxidants or discuss any of our services, take advantage of our Free Consultation by clicking here to use our convenient online form.