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Vitamin C & Cancer

Nearly 30 years after Nobel laureate US biochemist Linus Pauling
suggested that vitamin C supplements can prevent cancer, researchers
from Johns Hopkins Institute in Baltimore have confirmed that in mice
at least, vitamin C and potentially other antioxidants can inhibit
the growth of some cancer tumours.

Conventional wisdom has it that antioxidants mop up volatile oxygen
free radical molecules and prevent DNA damage associated with
degenerative diseases associated with aging, such as cancers,
cardiovascular disease, cognitive impairment, Alzheimer's disease,
immune dysfunction, cataracts and macular degeneration.

The Hopkins study, however, found that the antioxidants' actual role
is to destabilise a tumour's ability to grow under oxygen-starved

The work, led by Dr Chi Dang, professor of medicine and oncology at
Johns Hopkins, is published in the medical journal Cancer Cell.

So far, studies linking antioxidants to cancer prevention have been
conflicting. "Research has conclusively linked diet and lifestyle
with some cancers such as those of the uterus, breast, colon and
stomach, but there is no conclusive proof that antioxidants can be
prescribed for cancer prevention.

"However, vitamin C and other antioxidants are good for health and
boost immunity, we ask cancer survivors to include a lot of fresh
fruits and vegetables in their diet," says Dr Sameer Kaul, senior
consultant in oncology, Apollo Hospital.

When it comes to boost antioxidant intake, food sources of
antioxidants are better than diet supplements, health newsletter Mayo
Clinic Health Letter said, quoting recent research. The best-known
food components with antioxidant activities are vitamins A, C, and E;
i-carotene; the mineral selenium; and the compound lycopene.

"Many antioxidants can be identified in food by their distinctive
colours the deep red of cherries and of tomatoes; the orange of
carrots; the yellow of mangos; and the blue-purple of red cabbage,
plums, blackberries (jamun), brinjal and red grapes. Purple, in fact,
is considered the best source of antioxidants,
" says nutritionist
Rekha Sharma, senior vice president, VLCC Healthcare.

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