You have probably heard that antioxidants can help prevent different types of skin cancer. When your cells are damaged--through unhealthy lifestyle choices such as smoking and sun damage, or through normal bodily activities such as breathing--free radicals are produced that attack healthy cells. Free radicals are believed to contribute to cancer. Antioxidants help protect your cells from damage and therefore may help protect you from cancer. Some antioxidants are produced by your body, but others must be obtained through foods and supplements.
Studies on the role of antioxidants in helping to prevent cancer have been mixed. The National Cancer Institute lists nine major studies that have looked at the role of antioxidants in preventing cancer, many of which looked at Vitamin A, beta-carotene and Vitamin E. Studies on animals have shown that antioxidants through food or supplements did help prevent cancer; however, studies on humans have not shown the same results. Some studies have shown that antioxidants actually increase the risk of some cancers.
When the preliminary studies showed positive results in animals, antioxidants were touted as a necessary health food. Supplements, providing large doses of antioxidants and foods high in antioxidants, became popular. Even when the results of studies did not show positive results, companies continued to market supplements and foods. According to Harvard Health, more than $500 million is spend on antioxidant supplements. Other companies add antioxidants to foods to make them more appealing as a “healthy” food.
Antioxidants do play an important role in your health; however, this is when you get antioxidants from a healthy, well-balanced diet. According to Harvard Health, “the package of antioxidants, minerals, fiber and other substances found naturally in fruits, vegetables and whole grains helps prevent a variety of chronic diseases.” In other words, your diet should include plenty of fruits and vegetables, but adding extra antioxidants through supplements (and artificially added to foods) probably isn’t doing you much good and, high levels of antioxidants might even increase your risk of some cancers.
Published On: August 20, 2014