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Importance of Antioxidants In Cancer Prevention

Importance of Antioxidants In Cancer Prevention

Antioxidants are substances that help protect cells from the damage caused by free radicals, which are highly reactive molecules that can harm DNA, proteins, and other cellular components. Some studies have suggested that a diet rich in antioxidants may help reduce the risk of certain types of cancer. However, the relationship between antioxidants and cancer prevention is complex, and the evidence is not entirely consistent.

Here are some key points regarding antioxidants and cancer prevention:

  1. Natural Food Sources: Antioxidants are found in various fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. Examples of antioxidants include vitamins C and E, beta-carotene, selenium, and various phytochemicals such as flavonoids and polyphenols. Consuming a diet rich in these natural antioxidants has been associated with a lower risk of some cancers.
  2. Laboratory and Animal Studies: In laboratory and animal studies, antioxidants have shown promising effects in preventing cancer by reducing oxidative damage and inhibiting the growth of cancer cells. These findings have led to the hypothesis that antioxidants could have similar effects in humans.
  3. Mixed Human Studies: The results of human studies investigating the relationship between antioxidant intake and cancer prevention have been mixed. Some studies have found a protective association, particularly with certain types of cancer like lung, prostate, and colorectal cancer, while others have not found significant benefits or have even suggested potential harm.
  4. High-Dose Antioxidant Supplements: There is growing concern that high-dose antioxidant supplements, such as high-dose vitamin E or beta-carotene, may not have the same beneficial effects as those obtained through a balanced diet. Some studies have indicated that high-dose antioxidant supplements may increase the risk of certain cancers, particularly in individuals who are already at risk, such as smokers.
  5. Importance of Balanced Diet: Instead of relying on supplements, it is generally recommended to obtain antioxidants through a varied and balanced diet. Consuming a wide range of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and seeds provides not only antioxidants but also other beneficial compounds and fiber that contribute to overall health and potentially reduce the risk of cancer.

Also Read: Anti-Cancer Foods

Some Importance of antioxidants in cancer prevention. Antioxidants are thought to defend against cancer because oxidative/electrophilic stress is thought to be one of the key drivers of the accumulation of mutations in the genome. In experimental animal models, several natural and synthetic antioxidants have been shown to slow chemical carcinogenesis, and epidemiological studies suggest that a diet high in plant products containing natural antioxidants may be beneficial. Reactive oxygen species (ROS) are continuously produced in living cells as a result of metabolic and other biochemical activities, as well as external stimuli. To counteract this, antioxidant defense systems are unable to provide comprehensive protection from the harmful consequences of ROS, which include oxidative DNA damage. Animal and in vitro research have suggested that reactive oxygen species (ROS) have a role in carcinogenesis. As a factor in disease prevention, there is a critical balance between free-radical formation and antioxidant defense. An imbalance between free radical protection and generation has been linked to the pathophysiology of a wide range of illnesses

What are antioxidants, and what do they do?

Antioxidants in cancer prevention are substances that interact with free radicals and neutralize them, keeping them from harming others. Free radical scavengers are another name for antioxidants. Antioxidants are produced by the body and are used to neutralize free radicals. Endogenous antioxidants are the antioxidants that occur naturally in the body. The body, on the other hand, obtains the balance of the antioxidants it requires from external (exogenous) sources, chiefly the diet. Dietary antioxidants are the term for these exogenous antioxidants.

Antioxidants in cancer prevention can be found in abundance in fruits, vegetables, and grains. Supplements containing some dietary antioxidants are also available. Beta-carotene, lycopene, and vitamins A, C, and E are examples of dietary antioxidants (alpha-tocopherol). Although the mineral selenium is frequently assumed to be a dietary antioxidant, its antioxidant benefits are most likely attributable to the antioxidant activity of proteins that contain this element as an essential component (selenium-containing proteins), rather than
selenium itself.

Antioxidants in cancer prevention include

Vitamin C (ascorbic acid)

Vitamin C, according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), may protect against cancers of the mouth, stomach, and esophagus, as well as reduce the risk of rectum cancer, pancreatic cancer, and cervical cancer. Vitamin C, often known as ascorbic acid, may protect against breast cancer and lung cancer. The following foods are high in vitamin C, according to the American Dietetic Association and the USDA Nutrient Database for Standard Reference:

  • one medium orange - 69 mg
  • 1 cup orange juice - 124 mg
  • 1 medium raw green pepper - 106 mg
  • 1 cup raw strawberries - 81 mg
  • 1 cup cubed papaya - 86 mg
  • 1 medium raw red pepper - 226 mg
  • 1/2 cup cooked broccoli - 58 mg

Vitamin C's recommended dietary intake (RDA) has been raised to 75 milligrams per day for women and 90 milligrams per day for males. If you smoke cigarettes, you should boost your vitamin C consumption to 100 milligrams per day.

Beta carotene

Beta carotene, often known as provitamin A, has been linked to a lower risk of cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, this vitamin is an antioxidant in cancer prevention by boosting your immune system's white blood cells. White blood cells help to protect cells from free radical damage.

Dark green leafy and yellow-orange fruits and vegetables are good sources of beta carotene. Beta carotene is turned into vitamin A in the body. It is suggested that eating foods high in beta-carotene reduces the incidence of stomach, lung, prostate, breast, and head and neck cancer. More study is needed, however, before firm advice on beta-carotene intake can be established. Foods that are a rich source of beta carotene are:

  • Carrots
  • Squash
  • Collards
  • Spinach
  • Sweet potatoes

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is required for the normal functioning of our bodies. Vitamin E is an antioxidant in cancer prevention that aids in the formation of normal and red blood cells. Vitamin E appears to protect against prostate cancer and colorectal cancer, according to research. The daily recommended amount for vitamin E is 15 milligrams. Vitamin E has a daily maximum of 1,000 mg for adults. The following are good sources of vitamin E (and the amount in each serving):

  • 1 tablespoon sunflower oil - 6.9 mg
  • 1-ounce sunflower seeds - 14 mg
  • 1-ounce almonds - 7.4 mg
  • 1-ounce hazelnuts - 4.3 mg
  • 1-ounce peanuts - 2.1 mg
  • 3/4 cup bran cereal - 5.1 mg
  • 1 slice whole-wheat bread - .23 mg
  • 1-ounce wheat germ - 5.1 mg

Because some vitamin E sources are heavy in fat. A supplement containing a synthetic form of vitamin E is available. Because vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin that is stored in our bodies, most people do not need to take it as a supplement. Vitamin E in excessive amounts can potentially interfere with the function of other fat-soluble vitamins. Large doses of vitamin E from supplements are also not recommended for those who are using blood thinners or other drugs since the vitamin can interfere with the medication's effectiveness. Eat a diversified diet that includes whole-wheat bread and cereals to ensure that you are reaching your nutritional requirements.

Antioxidants have no suggested dietary allowance. Consume a wide range of meals, including plenty of fruits and vegetables, to ensure that you are getting enough of them in your diet.

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  1. Didier AJ, Stiene J, Fang L, Watkins D, Dworkin LD, Creeden JF. Antioxidant and Anti-Tumor Effects of Dietary Vitamins A, C, and E. Antioxidants (Basel). 2023 Mar 3;12(3):632. doi: 10.3390/antiox12030632. PMID: 36978880; PMCID: PMC10045152.

  2. Singh K, Bhori M, Kasu YA, Bhat G, Marar T. Antioxidants as precision weapons in the war against cancer chemotherapy-induced toxicity - Exploring the armory of obscurity. Saudi Pharm J. 2018 Feb;26(2):177-190. doi: 10.1016/j.jsps.2017.12.013. Epub 2017 Dec 19. PMID: 30166914; PMCID: PMC6111235.

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