Antioxidants have become so popular and it's one of the new buzzwords of today. You see it on the labels of foods that appear in the grocery store, colorful fruits and vegetables are packed with them, even cosmetics— skin care, hair care are now on the bandwagon singing its praises. Hallelujah.
In an article From the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) the grant review panelist, Dr. A. N. Tony Kong talks about his most recent findings. He wanted to know how antioxidants in plant foods affect genes that turn the cancer process on and off. That is what Dr. Kong has investigated in a number of studies.
He said, "It's a balancing act. A little inflammation in a healthy immune reaction is a good thing, but too much is harmful. Too much oxidative stress and too few antioxidant vitamins like C, D and E and not consuming enough phytochemicals—like sulforaphane in broccoli, EGCG in green tea and dozens more in all kinds of plant foods, leads to ill health."
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How does this happen? It has to do with the way our immune systems respond to infections by fighting the virus or bacteria that is causing them. The site that is inflamed is where the battle is fought. The longer the inflammation persists, the likelihood of increased risk for certain cancers. Some cancers cited are like liver cancer, the risk increases, due to hepatitis and H. pylori, the bacteria that are responsible for stomach ulcers, increases the risk for stomach cancer. Inflammatory bowel disease can increase the risk for colon cancer.
Versatility of Antioxidants
Apparently antioxidants have dual roles. They both coordinate and also give protection that is a two-step action. Here is how Dr. Kong described the process:
1. Antioxidants directly mop up free radical molecules.
2. Antioxidants turn on signals that tell tumor suppressing genes to become active.
Again, Dr. Kong stated, "Often where oxidative stress occurs, inflammation also occurs. Free radicals may also activate inflammation cascades. Antioxidants may not only reduce cell oxidative stress, they may also activate cellular defense systems by putting protective enzymes to work. Together they get rid of free radicals and also block the cell signaling that tells tumor cells to grow."
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How was the theory tested? In Dr. Kong's lab, a protein called "Nrf2" was omitted from one group of mice. The second group had the Nrf2 protein. They compared both groups feeding them sulforaphane, the phytochemical found in broccoli and cabbage. Their findings showed that sulforaphane plays an important role in enabling Nrf2 to inform antioxidants proteins to fight cytokines and other kinds of inflammatory proteins. This goes to show that eating fruits, vegetables, whole grains and beans are vital to our wellbeing. Sulforaphane is just one of hundreds of antioxidant phytochemicals that are plant based and can protect us from inflammation and oxidative stress. Keep Reading...
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