Scientists said last week that vitamin supplements do not protect against stomach and other cancers and may even make them worse.
An analysis of 14 trials of vitamin, or antioxidant, supplements involving more than 170,000 people showed no benefit against cancer of the stomach, esophagus, colon and pancreas. The researchers noted that antioxidant supplements do not have any influence on the incidence of gastrointestinal cancers. On the contrary, some may increase overall mortality in some cases.
Antioxidants are molecules that work to reduce the damage done to cells and DNA by free radicals, reactive oxygen particles found in the environment and produced by processes in the body. Vitamins A, E, C and beta-carotene, and the trace mineral selenium are nutrient antioxidants.
Fruits and vegetables are good sources of nutrient antioxidants as well as natural plant chemicals that have antioxidant powers. The highest concentrations are found in spinach, carrots, red bell peppers and tomatoes.
Some observational studies have suggested that antioxidant supplements could protect against some cancers, heart disease, stroke and ageing. But randomized control trials comparing the supplements to a placebo have not supported this.
Earlier trials to study prevention of lung cancer showed that beta-carotene raised the risk of disease in male smokers (high risk men). Another trial of patients with a high risk of cardiovascular disease showed no benefit after five years of treatment with a supplement combination.
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