The Dark Side of Antioxidants

Antioxidants are very popular these days as they are known to slow aging, prevent cancer, and cure and prevent a multitude of health problems. However, before you drink your usual concoction of antioxidants, a study has been published that supports the idea that intake of antioxidants can help in the proliferation of cancer cells. Researchers from the United States and China found that two drugs for Type 2 diabetes which are both antioxidants resulted in the metastasis of cancer in laboratory mice.


But this study is so disappointing because many people have always relied on their vegetables and fruits to free their bodies of damaging free radicals. So, how are antioxidants causing cancer cells to metastasize?


How Antioxidants Causes Cancer to Metastasize

It is a known fact that antioxidants can fight off free radicals that cause cancer. When scientists subjected a laboratory dish full of human cancer cells to the diabetes drug sitagliptin and saxagliptin, it encouraged the cells to metastasize more. In the in vitro study, nine human-tumor carrying mice were given either of the Type 2 diabetes drug, and it showed the same results as with the petri dish study. Researchers found out that the cancer cells invaded healthy tissues in various parts of the body.

antioxidants vs. free radicals

It is surprising to take note that while the drug may encourage cancer cells to metastasize, it did not raise the risk of developing cancer. According to the lead author of the study Hongxing Zheng from the Third Military Medical University in Chongqing in China, this indicates that patients who suffer from both diabetes and cancer have the highest risk for metastasis.


What Does It Mean?

If future studies are conducted to support the current one, there will be more proof about the dangers of antioxidants. This is not to say that people suffering from Type 2 diabetes should quit taking their treatment drugs. But it is worth taking a trip to your doctor’s office to discuss a possible change in medication.


Aside from the study conducted by American and Chinese researchers, a case report in 2005 described how a patient with Type 2 diabetes developed rare cancer after receiving saxagliptin. Moreover, a recent study involving laboratory mice with melanoma indicated that antioxidants might help spread the cancer cells throughout the body. With the many studies popping up, biologist Zachary Schafer noted that it is possible that the anti-diabetes agents may drive a particular anti-oxidant pathway that results in stimulating the metastasis of cancer cells.  Until today, the route remains a mystery.


While the studies among laboratory mice show compelling results, studies on people have yet to be carried out. Clinical trials involving the use of diabetes drugs do not include cancer patients so there is no way that doctors can see the metastasis-promoting effects of the drug. Moreover, there is an ethical issue of purposefully endangering people with cancer and diabetes.


In conclusion, there is a reason why free radicals exist, and the rush to control them using antioxidants is not a superb idea. For now, let nature take its course.


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