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Do Antioxidants Help or Harm

Posted 1/16/2013

Posted in

  This is definitely a controversial piece. For years, we have been told that antioxidants are very good for us, and there are many suggestions to eat lots of "super foods" (e.g. blueberries, raspberries, kale, escarole) that give us those vitamins. We have been warned not to take supplements of these vitamins during radiation therapy as there has been a worry that they might interfere with the work of the radiation. The rest of the time, however, they have been recommended. Now there is an opposing view.

  When I shared this piece from MedScape on a couple of my Listservs, I received a strong response from one very well informed and thoughtful woman who felt this theory is irresponsible. She may turn out to be right, but the theory comes from Nobel laureate James Watson, PhD, and one has to assume that he is a very smart man. He postulates that using antioxidants is more likely to cause cancer than to prevent it. Here is the beginning of the essay and then a link to read more:

Novel Cancer Hypothesis Suggests Antioxidants Are Harmful

Zosia Chustecka

A new hypothesis that focuses on reactive oxygen species (ROS) proposes that antioxidant levels within cancer cells are a problem and are responsible for resistance to treatment. The theory destroys any reason for taking antioxidative nutritional supplements, because they "more likely cause than prevent cancer," according to Nobel laureate James Watson, PhD, from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, New York.

Dr. Watson, who shared the Nobel prize for unraveling the structure of DNA, regards this theory as being "among my most important work since the double helix," notes a press release from his institution, where he has been director since 1968.

The theory was published online January 8 in Open Biology.

Dr. Watson explains that the vast majority of agents used to directly kill cancer cells, including ionizing radiation, most chemotherapeutic agents, and some targeted therapies, work by generating — either directly or indirectly — ROS that block key steps in the cell cycle.


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