Food Antioxidants & Cancer

Food Antioxidants & Cancer
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Antioxidant intake from foods (not supplements) is associated with lower cancer risk.

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Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

The USDA recently removed their online antioxidant database of foods, concerned that “ORAC values [were] routinely misused by food and dietary supplement manufacturing companies to promote their products.” Supplement manufacturers were getting into my-orac-is-bigger-than-your-orac pissing contests, comparing their pills to the antioxidant superfood du jour, like blueberries. And, we know there’s lots of bioactive compounds in whole plant foods that may help prevent and ameliorate chronic diseases in ways that have nothing to do with their antioxidant power. So, I understand their decision.

So, should we just eat lots of whole healthy plant foods, and not worry about which ones necessarily have more antioxidants? Or, does one’s dietary antioxidant intake matter? We have some new data to help answer that question. “Dietary total antioxidant capacity and [the risk of stomach cancer],” the world’s second leading cancer killer. A half-million people studied, and
“[d]ietary antioxidant capacity intake from different sources of plant foods [was] associated with a reduction in risk.” Note; they say dietary intake. They’re not talking about supplements.

Not only do antioxidant pills not seem to help; they “seem to increase overall mortality.” That’s like paying to live a shorter life. Just giving high doses of isolated vitamins may cause “disturbances” in our body’s own natural antioxidant network. There’s hundreds of different antioxidants in plant foods. They don’t “act in isolation.” They work synergistically. Mother Nature cannot be trapped in a bottle.

Similar results were recently reported with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The more ORAC units in food we eat per day, the lower our cancer risk may drop—though, antioxidants or not, greens were particularly protective. Look at that. Going from eating like one serving of green leafy vegetables per week to more like a serving per day may cut our odds of lymphoma in half.

Should we be worried about antioxidant intake during cancer treatment, since that’s how most chemo drugs work—by creating free radicals? According to some of the latest reviews, there’s “no evidence of antioxidant interference with chemotherapy.” And, in fact, they may actually “improve [treatment] response [and] patient survival.”

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to Nicola since 1972 and Capn Kroaker via flickr

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

The USDA recently removed their online antioxidant database of foods, concerned that “ORAC values [were] routinely misused by food and dietary supplement manufacturing companies to promote their products.” Supplement manufacturers were getting into my-orac-is-bigger-than-your-orac pissing contests, comparing their pills to the antioxidant superfood du jour, like blueberries. And, we know there’s lots of bioactive compounds in whole plant foods that may help prevent and ameliorate chronic diseases in ways that have nothing to do with their antioxidant power. So, I understand their decision.

So, should we just eat lots of whole healthy plant foods, and not worry about which ones necessarily have more antioxidants? Or, does one’s dietary antioxidant intake matter? We have some new data to help answer that question. “Dietary total antioxidant capacity and [the risk of stomach cancer],” the world’s second leading cancer killer. A half-million people studied, and
“[d]ietary antioxidant capacity intake from different sources of plant foods [was] associated with a reduction in risk.” Note; they say dietary intake. They’re not talking about supplements.

Not only do antioxidant pills not seem to help; they “seem to increase overall mortality.” That’s like paying to live a shorter life. Just giving high doses of isolated vitamins may cause “disturbances” in our body’s own natural antioxidant network. There’s hundreds of different antioxidants in plant foods. They don’t “act in isolation.” They work synergistically. Mother Nature cannot be trapped in a bottle.

Similar results were recently reported with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The more ORAC units in food we eat per day, the lower our cancer risk may drop—though, antioxidants or not, greens were particularly protective. Look at that. Going from eating like one serving of green leafy vegetables per week to more like a serving per day may cut our odds of lymphoma in half.

Should we be worried about antioxidant intake during cancer treatment, since that’s how most chemo drugs work—by creating free radicals? According to some of the latest reviews, there’s “no evidence of antioxidant interference with chemotherapy.” And, in fact, they may actually “improve [treatment] response [and] patient survival.”

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to Nicola since 1972 and Capn Kroaker via flickr

Doctor's Note

But should we take a multivitamin? See Should We Take a Multivitamin?

What about fish oil supplements? See Is Fish Oil Just Snake Oil?

I recently covered how and why we should strive to eat antioxidants with every meal in an important three-part series:

  1. Minimum “Recommended Daily Allowance” of Antioxidants
  2. How to Reach the Antioxidant “RDA”
  3. Antioxidant-Rich Foods with Every Meal

Preferentially getting one’s nutrients from produce, not pills is a common theme in the nutrition literature. See, for example:

Antioxidants may also slow aging (see Mitochondrial Theory of Aging), reduce inflammation (see Anti-Inflammatory Antioxidants), improve digestion (see Bulking Up on Antioxidants), and help prevent COPD (see Preventing COPD with Diet).

So, where are antioxidants found? See my series that begins with Antioxidant Content of 3,139 Foods and Antioxidant Power of Plant Foods vs. Animal Foods.

What about the role of antioxidants in other leading causes of death? That’s the subject of my next video: Food Antioxidants, Stroke, & Heart Disease.

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

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