Antioxidants have seen a surge in popularity in recent years as some reports have elevated them to the status of miracle molecules capable of preventing or deterring cancer. While the claims have yet to be proven, one scientist has raised concerns about the tendency of antioxidants taken in multivitamins to hinder treatment for patients battling cancer.
The study, written by Nobel Peace Prize winning scientist James Watson, warns that cancer patients who add multivitamins to their daily diet may actually be thwarting their own treatment progress. In his research, Watson has found that the reason late stage cancers often become resistant to treatment is that they produce high levels of antioxidants which prevent cancer treatments like chemotherapy and radiotherapy from working.
In patients without cancer, antioxidants are a good thing, because they attack molecules called “free radicals” which have been shown to damage DNA. But for cancer patients, those free radicals attack the cancer cells, and supplementing with antioxidants might prevent them from doing that.
Watson published his findings in the Royal Society's Open Biology journal, noting:
"For as long as I have been focused on the understanding and curing [of] cancer, well-intentioned individuals have been consuming antioxidative nutritional supplements as cancer preventatives if not actual therapies. In light of the recent data strongly hinting that much of late-stage cancer's untreatability may arise from its possession of too many antioxidants, the time has come to seriously ask whether antioxidant use much more likely causes than prevents cancer."