(Mirror Daily, United States) – Ever since antioxidants have become more popular in the 1990s, Americans have started believing that consuming more food that includes the substance – such as green tea, acai berries or leafy vegetables – is better for your health.
But the assumption has been tested in a new provocative new study published in the journal Nature. Thousands of foods include antioxidants such as beta-carotene and vitamin C, and they are thought to offer cell protection by defending them against “free radicals,” something that can either be body produced as a part of metabolism or can come from the environment.
Normal cells welcome them, but researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center found that antioxidants have a great effect on cancerous cells, as well, making them grow in a turbo-charged process of spreading throughout the body.
Lead researcher Sean Morrison and his team of colleagues conducted mice experiments on specimens that had been previously transplanted with skin cancer cells (melanoma) from human patients.
They were administered one of the most common antioxidants, N-acetylcysteine (NAC), the one used in bodybuilding nutritional supplements, in HIV/AIDS treatments and for some genetic disorders. Researchers had also set up a control group of mice that were not given anything.
It was surprising to see that the mice in the NAC group had started presenting significantly higher levels of cancer cells in their blood, grew more and larger tumors that had a wider spread in the body. Researchers started realizing that antioxidants could have a greater effect on bad cancer cells than on normal cells.
According to Morrison, head of the Children’s Medical Center Research Institute at UT Southwestern, oxidative stress is part of the explanation why this phenomenon takes place. It’s a known fact that during the last stage of cancer – metastasis – many of the cancerous cells die in the process of spreading across a greater distance in the body.
Oxidative stress – the body’s inability to defend against free radicals – is most likely the reason. But when antioxidants supplements come in the scene, they could be giving new life to those cancerous cells that otherwise would be dying.
More importantly, researchers believe it’s not just melanoma that could be affected this way by antioxidants. Whether or not this is the truth could only be discovered by further studying the findings.
Health experts still recommend that people should consume antioxidants as part of a healthy diet. However, cancer patients should avoid supplementing their diet with large amounts of antioxidants.
Image Source: Health Castle