I can’t quite believe I’m writing about the controversy I plan to tackle today. Normally, I wouldn’t even dignify its absurd claims with a response.
But I can’t just stand by and do nothing while an unsuspecting public stops taking supplements that could save their lives… simply because a few researchers have an axe to grind. So let’s get right into it, shall we?
There have been numerous, very highly publicized studies over the last several years — all claiming that antioxidants fuel cancer and contribute to its spread. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, chances are good you’ve heard at least some of this particular brand of anti-supplement propaganda.
Needless to say, I’ve devoted more than a few pages of this newsletter to antioxidants in the past. And there’s a reason for that — they’re among the most important supplements you can take, with specific varieties topping my “Desert Island” list, year after year.
Even so I want to start today’s “debunking” by returning to the basics. So let’s begin with a quick overview of what, exactly, antioxidants do. And then I’ll explain why you can’t afford to ditch them… especially if you have a high risk of cancer.
Your body’s built-in clean-up crew
Simply put, antioxidants are your body’s natural weapons against damaging reactive oxygen species (ROS), better known as free radicals. These are unstable, rogue molecules with unpaired electrons that roam your body looking to “steal” new electrons from nearby molecules.
Free radicals wreak havoc in your body. They leave a trail of damage behind them, creating new, unstable free radicals looking to replace their own stolen electrons. And, as you might expect, this damage can add up — in the form of premature aging, inflammation, chronic disease, and cancer — unless free radicals are neutralized ASAP.
That’s where antioxidants come in. They donate their electrons — stopping free radical damage in its tracks, and helping to mop up the mess left behind in the process.
It’s worth noting that free radicals are a perfectly natural and normal byproduct of metabolism. Yes, your body generates them all on its own. And yes, a healthy, well-nourished body is very capable of handling them on its own, too.
But daily exposure to the toxic soup and high stress of modern life can — and does — take its toll on your body’s natural defenses. Then there’s the fact that almost no one is getting proper nutrition through diet alone anymore. Not just because of the abundance of nutrition-devoid processed foods, but because even the fruits and vegetables we grow don’t have anywhere near the same nutrient profile they once did.
Both of these factors can make it all but impossible for your body to keep up. So it’s no wonder cancer rates have skyrocketed, even as medical technology has advanced. And it’s naive to assume that the average human being doesn’t need extra nutritional support, simply to maintain health — much less to restore it.
Which brings us right back to the controversy at hand.
Where there’s smoke, there’s fire
As I mentioned above, the powers-that-be are completely up in arms about the hype over antioxidants — and in particular, their sterling reputation against diseases like cancer. So they’ve done exactly what we’ve all come to expect, and launched a tireless smear campaign to scare the public into dropping their supplements like a hot potato.
Their most recent ammo comes in the form of a handful of studies, almost entirely performed on mice. But for the sake of meaningful discussion, let’s start with a look at a few older studies that did deal with actual people.
All the way back in 1994, a large trial reported that high doses of beta carotene — one of the most well-known antioxidants out there — raised lung cancer risk by 18 percent in men who smoked.1 A couple of years later, another trial ended early when researchers found that high doses of both beta carotene and retinol (a form of another traditional antioxidant, vitamin A) boosted lung cancer risk by more than a quarter in both smokers and subjects exposed to asbestos.2
I could go on. But are you noticing a trend here? We’re talking about people who smoke and work with asbestos — and yet the blame is somehow landing squarely on supplements. Pretty unconvincing, if you ask me.
All this would be easy enough to dismiss, if the witch hunt ended there. But it didn’t. Years later, in 2011, another trial came on the scene — a large one, involving more than 35,000 men over 50. And this one showed that high doses of vitamin E (yet another essential antioxidant) raised prostate cancer risk by 17 percent.3
Does this sound troubling? At first glance, absolutely. These results raise a lot of questions. And I can hardly blame anyone for asking them. Problem is, the cancer establishment went ahead and offered up an answer before doing much questioning of their own.
For example, they never bothered questioning the fact that the form of vitamin E used in the study was synthetic. As was the form of beta-carotene used in the lung cancer study I mentioned above. Both vitamins were also administered in single form — whereas in nature (and in proper nutritional supplements), you’d be getting an entire full spectrum of antioxidant compounds with each.
Put simply, these studies aren’t representative of real life — not with respect to their subjects and not with respect to the ways in which our bodies naturally interact with antioxidants. But unfortunately, that didn’t stop scientists from taking this foul ball and running with it.
Absurd leaps in logic… with even crazier conclusions
In a study published last year, a team of Swedish researchers fed the antioxidant N-acetylcysteine (NAC) to a group of mice.4 But not just any old mice. These mice had been genetically altered to have a high risk of melanoma.
While the treated mice didn’t develop more skin tumors, they did develop twice as many lymph node tumors. The team’s conclusion, of course, was that antioxidants helped to spread the disease.
How, in good conscience, can you make a giant leap like that? Especially when you’re dealing with genetically engineered mice receiving arbitrary supplement doses?
The researchers pointed out that the tumor cells had higher levels of glutathione (your body’s most powerful primary antioxidant defense), and used that finding to support their conclusion. But what they seem to be forgetting (or blatantly ignoring) is that the body makes glutathione in response to dangerous triggers like cancer, and sends it to tumor cells to get rid of them… not to fuel them.
The only credit that I will give these scientists is that at least they didn’t propose antioxidants actually cause cancer. In fact, they freely admit that these natural compounds protect DNA and ward off tumors.
They’re just suggesting that these same protective antioxidants also make existing cancer cells more deadly. It boggles my mind.
They can’t say anything good about nutritional supplementation without blaming it for something far more deadly before they’re through.
The fact is, we eat antioxidants every day. And the body generates (and destroys) cancer cells every day as a matter of biological business. Seriously folks — if what these scientists are saying was true, the human race would be extinct right now.
But I certainly can’t let one group of Swedes hog the spotlight when it comes to discrediting nutritional supplementation. Because sadly, they’re hardly alone in this mission.
A recent study out of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center claimed that antioxidants resurrect cancer cells that are on the verge of death, and make it easier for them to spread.5 Another study from Vanderbilt University, this time on mice with prostate cancer, suggested the same.6 And yet another study claimed that antioxidants make tumors more aggressive in mice with lung cancer.7
Some of these groups are going as far as saying that cancer patients shouldn’t even eat antioxidant-rich foods, like leafy greens and berries.
It’s pure and utter nonsense. And, unfortunately, it shows no sign of ending.
The road to longevity is not a straight line
All of these studies support the theory that reducing oxidative stress actually fuels existing cancer cells. And I admit it’s a very interesting theory.
But throwing out the baby with the bathwater by condemning antioxidants is not the next logical step here.
Oxidative stress negatively affects every system in the body. This is a fact — which is why it’s so important to do all you can to reduce it. But unfortunately, these studies suggest we give free reign to a condition that plays a huge role in heart disease, diabetes, and just about every other lethal, chronic disease in the book — including cancer. All based on results from single cell lines in rodents. It just shows how little mainstream medicine understands holistic interactions between nutrition and biology.
In fact, the lead researcher behind the Swedish mouse study I mentioned earlier expressed particular concern over cancer patients taking so-called “dangerous” antioxidants. “And because there’s no strong evidence that antioxidants are beneficial,” he said (and I quote), “cancer patients should be encouraged to avoid supplements after they have a diagnosis.”
What these scientists fail to acknowledge — much less understand — is the fact that we’re far beyond a time when whole food, vigorous exercise, fresh air, and sound sleep were the status quo. So, in today’s world, taking antioxidants is necessary to restore an appropriate balance between pro-oxidants and antioxidants. And to restore and extend normal biological function.
Then again, I suppose it’s no big surprise that an industry that thrives on the “cut, poison, burn” approach to treating cancer would take one of the primary natural cancer-fighting tools completely out of context. And jump to some pretty wild and unsupported conclusions as a result.
Show me some real human data from a study that mimics how antioxidants truly work in the body and then we’ll talk. Until then, there’s only one conclusion I’m sure of: This entire debate epitomizes modern medicine’s compulsion to reduce the human body’s complex mechanisms into simple machinery.
I hate to break it to the supplement detractors out there, but it just doesn’t work that way. And no matter how they try to twist it, not only are their conclusions virtually meaningless… their advice is just plain wrong.
Nine antioxidants you can’t live without
In case you haven’t guessed, I’ve never met an antioxidant I didn’t like. But here is my short list of those that I consider the most essential:
- Vitamin C – Yes, an oldie but goodie. Keep in mind that we are one of the only mammals on this planet unable to make our own vitamin C. A good daily intake is 3,000 mg per day, in divided doses. But I have my cancer patients take as much as they can (bowel tolerance levels, or up to 100 grams per week), orally and intravenously.
- Vitamin E – Another oldie but goodie. Our essential enzyme systems need this antioxidant in order to work efficiently. But as I mentioned above, avoid artificial vitamin E at all costs. The supplement you use must be natural (make sure it does not have a “dl” prefix listed before the tocopherols), and it must have the full range of tocopherols (alpha, beta, gamma, and delta). I recommend taking 400 to 1,200 IU per day. Also, if you are taking blood thinners, you must run this dose by your doctor.
- Reg’Activ® – This is a new probiotic product, but it has quickly become one of my favorites, because it helps your body produce glutathione. Glutathione is a “super antioxidant” that enhances the function of the other antioxidants in your body. It’s also the main antioxidant your body produces itself, and absolutely necessary for supporting your liver’s detoxification process. I recommend taking 2 to 6 capsules per day.
- Cocoa flavonoids – Cocoa is one of the richest sources of antioxidants on the planet, provided you’re not getting it with a heaping helping of sugar. Taking cocoa flavonoids in supplement form eliminates this risk while still delivering the goods. I recommend taking 1 gram, three times per day.
- Coenzyme Q10 – This is an amazing antioxidant in its own right, but it also enables all of the other antioxidants to do the job they were meant to do. I recommend a dose of 300 to 900 mg per day.
- N-Acetyl cysteine – This is another key precursor to glutathione. In fact, without n-acetyl cysteine, your body can’t produce it at all. I recommend 1,000 mg, three times per day.
- Pycnogenol® – I’ve written about this many times, but it remains one of the most powerful antioxidants on the planet, with more uses than I could possibly list here — benefiting everything from circulation to immunity. I recommend 100 to 600 mg per day.
- Vitamin D3 – This may not seem like a traditional antioxidant… and it isn’t. But there are so many studies discussing the role this natural compound plays in disease prevention — and cancer prevention, in particular — that I feel it belongs on this list. Just remember that conventional “sufficiency” thresholds aren’t going to cut it here. You need levels around 80 ng/ml to get the best health benefits. And reaching that level often requires up to 10,000 IU per day.
- Natural beta carotene – I couldn’t leave this one off the list, considering it was the first antioxidant to come under scrutiny from mainstream medicine. But despite the smear campaign against it, it is very safe and very useful, when taken in its natural form. A good starting dose is 25,000 IU per day. But I often tell cancer patients to take enough that it turns your skin orange. (Yes, that actually happens — and no, it won’t hurt you.)
I could go on and on. But this list covers the most basic essentials. And I can’t think of anyone (except perhaps pregnant women) who shouldn’t be taking them, whether you have cancer or you just want to prevent it.
Of course, antioxidants are just one tool in Mother Nature’s anti-cancer arsenal. For the complete rundown of all of my recommendations for preventing cancer naturally, check out my report Cancer-Free for Life. You can order a copy by clicking here or calling 1-888-884-7768 and asking for code EOV1S9AA.
The final word… for now
Bottom line: You simply cannot trust the cancer establishment. In one breath they tell you that vitamins do nothing. In the next breath, they tell you that supplements may undermine their powerful drugs…based on a handful of studies done in mice.
Obviously, their standards change depending upon how conveniently any given conclusion fits into their profit margin. And when you get right down to it, THAT’S what’s really behind this recent wave of alarmist handwringing.
There is a huge incentive to administer chemotherapy in this country — and the cancer industry is worth billions. If they weren’t worried we were on to something, they wouldn’t hide behind mice.
The fact is, antioxidants stem directly from the fruit and vegetables we all need to be eating more of anyway. Assuming you’re choosing the most natural forms available — and that’s a big and very important caveat — it’s hard put any stock into claims that they’re harmful.
Especially when you consider the results of massive population based studies like the Women’s Health Initiative or the Nurses’ Health Study. All of which have consistently shown that people with higher antioxidant intakes enjoy a significantly lower risk of cancer. (If you want a more detailed account of just how much of a difference nutrition can make, take some time to revisit the December 2012 issue — and believe me, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.)
Perhaps that’s why I have more 90 to 100 year old patients running around my office than I know what to do with — while the mainstream doctors out there are just trying to keep their chronically ill patients alive.
 N Engl J Med. 1994 Apr 14;330(15):1029-35.
 Omenn GS, et al. N Engl J Med. 1996 May 2;334(18):1150-5.
 Klein EA, et al. JAMA. 2011 Oct 12;306(14):1549-56.
 Le Gal K, et al. Sci Transl Med. 2015 Oct 7;7(308):308re8.
 Piskounova E, et al. Nature. 2015 Nov 12;527(7577):186-91.
 Martinez EE, et al. PLoS One. 2012;7(10):e46792.
 Savin VI, et al. Sci Transl Med. 2014 Jan 29;6(221):221ra15.