The Antioxidant Group
Daily announcements about cancer-fighting antioxidants are commonplace in magazines, newspapers, and television. Experts encourage us to achieve adequate amounts of these nutrients through diet. To adjust the diet accordingly one must know what foods are high in antioxidant vitamins and minerals. Knowledge is not the only obstacle restricting sufficient consumption of the recommended antioxidant rich foods. For most us, our lifestyles discourage proper eating habits. Vitamin and mineral supplementation should be a simple and practical solution to insure appropriate amounts in the diet. Nutrients that include carbohydrates, proteins, fats, water, vitamins and minerals are necessary for our bodies to function properly. Vitamins and minerals, or coenzymes, work with our bodies' natural enzymes making them more efficient. Nutritionists categorize nutrients into groups depending on our body's use. The two groups of vitamins are water-soluble and fat-soluble. The human body either uses or eliminates water-soluble vitamins in two to four days. (Lieberman 14) Toxic side effects are not a concern with water-soluble vitamins because the body does not store them. (Lieberman 14) The body stores fat-soluble vitamins. Because toxicity is possible with fat-soluble vitamins, avoid large doses. (Lieberman 14) The two groups of minerals are macro minerals, the bulk minerals, and micro minerals, the trace minerals. The body stores minerals in bones and muscle tissue. It is possible to overdose on minerals. Taking extremely large doses over a prolonged time can produce ill effects from both vitamins and minerals. (Lieberman 13,14)(Hendler 35) Each of the four groups contains cancer-fighting vitamins and minerals. WATER-SOLUBLE VITAMIN GROUP Included in the water-soluble group is Vitamin C. Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, boosts the immune system by enhancing the white blood cells' effectiveness. (Hendler 87) Two other vitamins in the antioxidant group, vitamin A and E, oxidize less when taken with vitamin C. The ascorbic acid of vitamin C also may block carcinogens in nitrates. Adding vitamin C to processed foods such as bacon, luncheon meat and hot dogs, prevents nitrosamine, the cancer-causing substance, from forming. (Hendler 85) Studies have shown that 75 percent of cancer patients have vitamin C deficiencies. High intakes of C have shown to reduce cancer of stomach, colon, bladder, lung, esophagus and cervix. (Lieberman 106) Inhibiting growth of leukemia cells by administering large doses of vitamin C has also been successful. (Hendler 86) Food Sources: Foods high in Vitamin C are broccoli, black currents, collards, guava, horseradish, kale, turnip greens, parsley, sweet peppers, cabbage, cauliflower, chives, kohlrabi, orange pulp, lemon pulp, mustard greens, beet greens, papaya, spinach, strawberries, and watercress. Exposure to oxygen, light, and heat destroys vitamin C. (Lieberman 107,108) Dose: The suggested dosage is between 5,000 and 10,000 milligrams per day. To aid in absorption, supplements should also contain 500 to 5,000 milligrams of bioflavonoids. (Lieberman 109) Because the body purges vitamin C, at the saturation point, through body fluids, take smaller doses throughout the day. (Hendler 93) Dietitians recommend taking ascorbic acid not mineral ascorbate. Do not take chewable tablets because they are high in sugar. (Lieberman 108,109) FAT-SOLUBLE VITAMIN GROUP Two effective cancer fighting vitamins are in the fat-soluble group. The first is Vitamin A. Vitamin A therapy reduces incidences of lung cancer, notably in individuals who smoke. A five-year study of 8,000 men revealed a greater percentage of contracting lung cancer by the men not given vitamin A supplements. Vitamin A helps the body to produce epithelial tissue. This tissue, found in most of the body, particularly in the respiratory system, is vital for healthy cancer resistant cells. Results of other studies suggest that vitamin A also helps to prevent or slow the growth of cancer of the bladder, larynx, esophagus, stomach, colon and prostate. (Lieberman 178) (Hendler 43) Food Sources: The liver oils of cod, halibut, salmon and shark contain high concentrations of Vitamin A. Beef and chicken livers also have significant amounts. Green and yellow-orange fruits and vegetables also contain high amounts of vitamin A, as Beta-Carotene. Examples are carrots, kale, kohlrabi, parsley, spinach, turnip greens, dandelion greens, apricots and cantaloupe. (Lieberman 58) Dose: Take 50,000 to 100,000 IU daily of which at least half is as beta-carotene. Active vitamin A is toxic at 100,000 IU if taken daily over months. Signs of toxicity of active vitamin A is fatigue, nausea, vomiting, headache, vertigo, blurred vision, lack of muscular coordination, and loss of body hair. Discontinuing the supplement causes the symptoms to vanish. Beta-carotene is not toxic. (Hendler 48) Large doses of beta-carotene produce an orange tinge to the skin, which may protect against sunburn.(Lieberman 59) Vitamin E is the other cancer-fighting vitamin in the fat-soluble group. Studies show that vitamin E protects against cancers of the lung, colon, breast, skin and mouth. Research reveals that vitamin E may inhibit the growth of cancerous tumors. A study on hamsters exposed to carcinogens had significant findings. The group of hamsters given vitamin E developed no tumors while every hamster in the group not given vitamin E developed cancerous tumors. (Hendler 104) Vitamin E supplements significantly reduce the side effects of chemotherapy treatments without reducing the therapy's effectiveness. Vitamin E, A and C's potency are higher when taken together. Vitamin E fights against toxins such as mercury, lead, carbon tetrachloride, benzene, ozone, and nitrous oxide. (Lieberman 3) Food Sources: Oils such as cottonseed, corn, soybean, safflower and wheat germ have high concentrations of vitamin E. Whole grains, dark green leafy vegetables and some nuts have smaller amounts. Heat destroys vitamin E along with light, air and cold temperatures. Milled grains lose up to 80 percent of their vitamin E content in processing. (Lieberman 66) (Hendler 48) Dose: The recommended daily amount is 400 to 800 IU for people without high blood pressure. Those with elevated blood pressure should start at 100 IU daily and increase gradually. Vitamin E contains four substances; alpha, beta, delta and gamma tocopherol. Alpha tocopherol is the substance most helpful in reducing cancer risks. Experts agree that all four tocopherol components should be present in the supplement for maximum effectiveness. The natural form or D form is most affordable but does not absorb well. The synthetic form or DL is very costly but is most absorbable. A good compromise is to take a combination of both D and DL. Some people may experience nausea, flatulence, diarrhea, headache, heart palpitations and fainting when taking daily doses of 1,200 IU or more. Lowering the dose reverses these adverse side effects. (Lieberman 67,68) MINERAL GROUP -- MACRO MINERALS Among the macro minerals is calcium. Calcium helps to prevent colon cancer. Studies show that people who take 1,200 milligrams a day are less likely to develop colon cancer. (Lieberman 116) After only three months on supplements, a test group showed a significant decrease of cells associated with cancer of the colon. A nineteen-year study resulted in a definite link between lower amounts of calcium intake and higher incidents of colorectal cancer. (Hendler 119) Food Sources: Milk, cheese, ice cream and yogurt are good sources of calcium. Salmon, green leafy vegetables and tofu are also high in calcium. (Lieberman 119) (Hendler 122) Dose: For optimum health, take a daily dose of 1,000 to 1,500 milligrams. Take calcium and magnesium at a ratio of one part magnesium to every two parts calcium. (Lieberman 121) The body absorbs each nutrient more and assimilates each better when calcium and magnesium are combined into one tablet. The body can only absorb 1,000 milligrams at a time so take calcium in smaller doses throughout the day. Three forms of Calcium supplements are calcium carbonate, calcium lactate and calcium gluconate. (Lieberman 121) The carbonate has the largest amount of elemental calcium (40%)and absorbs well. Dolomite is a supplement that combines both calcium and magnesium in the proper proportions but is the least absorbable. (Hendler 122) Antacids have been promoting their products with claims of high concentrations of calcium. Unfortunately, antacids also contain aluminum. The adverse effects of aluminum are "high levels of calcium" that pass with the urine, "loss of minerals from the bones," and "impaired fluoride absorption." All these side-effects "ironically contribute to bone diseases."(Lieberman 121,122) MINERAL GROUP -- MICRO MINERALS Selenium is the most powerful of all the nutrients in the fight against cancer. Extensive studies prove animals deficient in selenium have more incidents of cancer. Comparison studies show an increase in selenium protects against cancer.(Hendler 185) A study of two groups of rats exposed to a potent carcinogen gave conclusive evidence. Both groups ate a balanced diet. One group received high doses of selenium, while the other group received no selenium. Fifteen percent of the selenium group developed liver cancer compared with 90 percent of the rats developing liver cancer in the group that did not receive selenium. Another similar study had results of 10 percent to 80 percent respectively. (Lieberman 152). Reduction of colon cancer by more than 50 percent was the results from another test. Selenium reduces the risks of developing breast cancer, colon cancer and lung cancer. Significant reductions in the development of tumors of the ovary, cervix, rectum, bladder, esophagus, pancreas, skin, liver, and prostate are evident with selenium supplements. In Finland a study showed that the risk of terminal cancer was six times greater in people with low selenium concentrations compared to those with high concentrations. Food Source: There is no accurate way to measure the amount of selenium in food. A good source may be from animals with diets high in selenium and possibly whole grains grown in selenium rich soil. Detecting the selenium content in the animals diet and in the soil may be impossible and definitely impractical. The refining process contributes to selenium lose by stripping the grain of its selenium content.(Lieberman 154) Dose: Take between 200 and 400 micrograms daily. Look for Selenomethronine from selenium rich yeast and ocean plants because this form is least toxic and most absorbable. Prolonged doses of 500 micrograms or more daily can cause toxicity. Symptoms of toxicity are "garlic odor in breath, urine" and perspiration. Birth defects are likely in cases where extremely high doses are taken.(Lieberman 154,155) The antioxidant group consists of five nutrients: three vitamins and two minerals. The vitamins are C, A and E. These vitamins when taken together help each other to perform more effectively. Vitamin C is in the water-soluble group, thus eliminating the fear of overdose. Because the body discards surplus vitamin C, take small doses spread throughout the day. Vitamins A and E are fat-soluble. The body stores excess amounts. Therefore only take the recommended doses. The antioxidant minerals are Calcium and Selenium. Extremely large doses result in toxic effects. Cancer research continues to turn up new information daily regarding cancer prevention. Vitamins and minerals are only one avenue of prevention. Many factors contribute to the risks of contracting cancer. Taking antioxidants should be only one of your practices to reduce your risks. Bibliography: Lieberman, Shari. Design Your Own Vitamin and Mineral Program. New York: Doubleday, 1987. Hendler, Sheldon. The Doctors' Vitamin and Mineral Encyclopedia. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1990.